WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) and Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) secured $2.5 billion to support New Mexico residents and business owners impacted by this year’s Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon fires. The aid for New Mexico was included in the Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government funded until December 16, 2022, which passed the Senate and House and now heads to the President to become law.
New Mexico’s Congressional Democrats successfully included the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act and $2.5 billion for FEMA to establish and carry out the requirements of the bill. The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act is led by Senator Luján and Representative Leger Fernández, and co-sponsored by Senator Heinrich and Representative Stansbury.
“The Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Fire destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, and it displaced thousands of New Mexicans for weeks and months on end. When I have visited impacted communities throughout this year, I have met personally with residents who were forced to flee their homes and with local leaders, volunteers, and firefighter crews. Their incredible resilience and willingness to serve their neighbors in such a difficult time embodies the best of what it means to be New Mexican,” said Heinrich. “That’s why I have done everything in my power to have their back. The federal government has a responsibility to provide compensation and assistance to New Mexicans whose lives and livelihoods have been upended by this fire. Senator Luján and I talked to every single senator who would listen to make sure we would have the votes to deliver the resources that New Mexicans need to rebuild in the aftermath of the worst fire in our state’s history. I know that passing this funding is just the start of this process. I remain determined to leave no stone unturned in making sure that we restore the health of our forests and watershed and that New Mexico families and communities are made whole."
"Today, Congress has made it abundantly clear that the federal government has a moral obligation to do right by New Mexicans by passing my legislation that will deliver an expected $2.5 billion in relief to New Mexico," said Luján. "This legislation secures federal funding in assisting New Mexicans who have lost everything, items that can't be replaced as a result of a wildfire started by the federal government. Thanks to the dedication of the New Mexico Delegation, the passage of my Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act means more opportunities for New Mexicans and small businesses who have struggled to rebuild in the months following the fire. I look forward to President Biden signing this legislation to get this relief out to our communities as quickly as possible to move our recovery forward.”
"Today, we secured $2.5 billion for our ranchers, acequia members, students, and families. For our forests, lands, precious waters, and all we lost in this fire. $2.5 billion begins the long, slow road to healing and recovery. For months, I carried the pain and sorrow of our gente and how they lost what they hold dear. I heard stories from our communities who shared how the fires and floods ravaged and destroyed the places they called home and where they expected to see future generations thrive," said Leger Fernández. "But I was also inspired by the strength and resiliency of the survivors. I've been carrying their stories, voices, hopes, and hardships with me to Congress. I promised to pursue every possible opportunity to seek justice, and we successfully passed the Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act not once but three times through the House."
"Today, the Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act will be signed into law so that our communities who have lived in these areas for hundreds of years can continue to live, work, and learn there for generations. In the next 45 days, we will work closely with FEMA and the affected communities to set up a process that works and is easy for survivors to process their claims. The new office at FEMA must understand the unique aspects of the claims that will be made. I am hopeful that the first claims can be processed before the new year," concluded Leger Fernández.
“Today’s vote for funding to help those impacted by the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires is a major victory for New Mexico. While our communities are resilient, the federal government has a responsibility to address the harm caused by the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history,” said Stansbury. “We have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with our delegation and the administration to secure the resources New Mexicans need to rebuild, and I am proud that this funding is on its way to the President’s desk. We will do everything we can to get this funding to our communities and ensure New Mexicans are made whole again.”
Beginning April 6, 2022, the Hermit’s Peak Fire started as a result of an approved prescribed fire plan ignited by the U.S. Forest Service fire personnel in the Santa Fe National Forest. Hermit’s Peak Fire subsequently merged with the Calf Canyon Fire - a holdover fire from a prescribed pile burn conducted by the U.S. Forest Service - to become the largest fire in New Mexico’s history. The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fires resulted in evacuations of more than 25,000 individuals in San Miguel and Mora Counties, destroyed 900 homes and structures, and scorched 341,735 acres (534 square miles) of land.
The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act would require FEMA to design and administer a program to fully compensate those who suffered personal injury or business, income, and financial losses resulting from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire.