N.M. Congressional Delegation Calls On President Biden To Grant State's Major Disaster Declaration Request In Wake Of Severe Wildfires

The lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to also waive the 25% non-federal cost share requirement for federal assistance

WASHINGTON – As many areas in New Mexico continue dealing with the devastation and mitigation of wildfires across the state, 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.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), and Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) are calling on President Joe Biden to approve a Major Disaster Declaration request from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

New Mexico’s Congressional delegation is also urging the Biden administration to waive the 25% non-federal cost share requirement for federal assistance.

In a letter to President Biden, New Mexico’s Congressional delegation wrote, “Since April 5, 2022, wildfires in New Mexico have burned nearly 235,000 acres and have forced an estimated 40,200 New Mexicans to evacuate their homes and businesses, including more than 80 percent of the population of Mora, Colfax, and San Miguel counties. In Lincoln County, a wildfire near Ruidoso caused two fatalities and destroyed over 200 homes. The combined fire of Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon – the third-largest fire in New Mexico history – continues to spread and could risk 15,000 more homes. Additionally, fire officials have warned that high wind events could create ‘extreme fire behavior’ further jeopardizing lives, residential homes, agricultural land, and public land. Federal assistance is of utmost urgency.”

A Major Disaster Declaration would open up access to Public Assistance and Individual Assistance funds from FEMA. Public Assistance supports the restoration and reconstruction of public infrastructure and lands. Individual Assistance supports families from losses suffered due to the fires.

The State is requesting Public Assistance, Category A and B, including Direct Federal Assistance for Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, Valencia, and San Miguel counties, as well as Individual Assistance, including Small Business Agency Disaster Loan Assistance, for Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, Valencia, and San Miguel counties.

The lawmakers added, “Due to the life and death nature of this crisis, we urge [President Biden] to act without delay and approve the State of New Mexico’s request for a major disaster declaration.” 

The U.S. Department of Homeland’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has already approved Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) to support firefighting efforts. 

Read the full text of the letter below or by clicking here.

Dear President Biden,

We respectfully request that you take immediate action on the recent request for a major disaster declaration from the State of New Mexico in response to the ongoing wildfires burning since April 5, 2022. The State is requesting Public Assistance, Category A and B, including Direct Federal Assistance for Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, Valencia, and San Miguel counties, as well as Individual Assistance, including SBA Disaster Loan Assistance, for Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, Valencia, and San Miguel counties. We ask that you expeditiously grant the declaration and make this federal assistance available as soon as possible for the State to have all the resources it needs to mitigate and recover from the devastation of the wildfires. Further, given the severity of the destruction and given much of the damage has occurred in rural and underserved communities, we request you waive the 25% non-federal cost share requirement for federal assistance. 

Since April 5, 2022, wildfires in New Mexico have burned nearly 235,000 acres and have forced an estimated 40,200 New Mexicans to evacuate their homes and businesses, including more than 80 percent of the population of Mora, Colfax, and San Miguel counties. In Lincoln County, a wildfire near Ruidoso caused two fatalities and destroyed over 200 homes. The combined fire of Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon – the third-largest fire in New Mexico history – continues to spread and could risk 15,000 more homes. Additionally, fire officials have warned that high wind events could create “extreme fire behavior” further jeopardizing lives, residential homes, agricultural land, and public land. Federal assistance is of utmost urgency. 

Due to the life and death nature of this crisis, we urge you to act without delay and approve the State of New Mexico’s request for a major disaster declaration. It is imperative that the federal government provides full support to New Mexican communities to protect and recover from the ongoing wildfire devastation.

Thank you for your consideration to this important request.

Sincerely,