Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act moves closer to passage

Legislation that could provide full compensation to thousands of people affected by the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak fire passed a key milestone on Thursday.

Proposal Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act would allow anyone affected by the fire to claim full compensation, as the largest fire in the state started as two planned burns by the United States Forest Service.

He reflects similar legislation passed after the Cerro Grande fire in 2000, which began as a planned fire, and destroyed approximately 280 homes and parts of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

If the law is passed, it would open the door to much more help for people who have lost their homes, farm buildings, pastures and logging rights. FEMA spokesperson Dasha Castillo told KUNM that as of July 11, the agency has given nearly $4 million to 1,117 aid seekers.

By comparison, after the Cerro Grande fire, the initial budget allocation for compensation was $455 million and ultimately the federal government spent about $1 billion.

In Mora County, Emergency Manager David Montoya said so far assessors have counted about 84 primary residences destroyed by the fire and more than 70 other buildings. According to a June 17 memorandum to the Legislative Finance Committee, local officials say more than 500 homes in San Miguel County have been lost to date. Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández also told KUNM that there was also fire damage in Taos County.

The proposed assistance legislation was included in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, sponsored by Representative Leger Fernández and Senator Ben Ray Luján. On Thursday, the law passed the House along with the fire assistance legislation. The bill is not yet scheduled for its hearing in the Senate.

Leger Fernández told KUNM that this law could be critical for his constituents.

“I believe the Forest Service, therefore the federal government, needs to take responsibility for the damage they have caused,” she said. “We need to fully compensate all individuals who have lost their business, who have lost income, who have lost their home which may not have been their primary residence, but it is the generational home.”

She urged anyone whose FEMA application has been denied, or who needs help, to call her office at (505) 428-4680, so she and her staff can help with the bureaucratic hurdles.

This coverage was made possible by the WK Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.