A major disaster is declared in New Mexico, unlocking federal aid as wildfires threaten thousands of homes


The presidential action Wednesday makes federal money available for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help residents and business owners recover, the declaration states.

Some 300,000 acres have burned this year in New Mexico — more than the past two full years combined, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire — the second-largest fire in New Mexico in at least 30 years — had burned more than 160,000 acres through Wednesday, destroyed dozens of homes and could threaten more than 15,000 more this week, officials have said.
Much of the Southwest has been under a prolonged, severe drought fueled by the climate crisis that has helped create the critical fire conditions. April’s fire weather conditions were the worst in New Mexico in more than a decade, even ahead of its typically most active wildfire months of May, June and July, Miller said.
New Mexico’s governor this week had asked for a presidential disaster declaration as her state fights seven wildfires — the most in any state, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This year is already New Mexico’s most active for fires since 2018, exceeding the annual average of around 260,000 acres burned, Miller said.
The most active southwest wildfire season in years

“I have 6,000 people evacuated,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Tuesday. “I have families who don’t know what the next day looks like. I have families who are trying to navigate their children, their own health care resources, figure out their livelihoods, and they’re in every single little community.”

A presidential disaster declaration would unlock resources “for watershed recovery, restoration of all of those wildlands and personal direct financial reparation and assistance before the fire is out,” she said.

Under the order, officials and nonprofits also are eligible for help paying for emergency measures, including evacuation shelters, and hazard mitigation statewide, the declaration states. People in Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, San Miguel and Valencia counties can apply.

A plane drops water Wednesday to combat the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire.

The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire has destroyed 172 homes in Mora and San Miguel counties, officials said Tuesday. The area includes the New Mexico city of Las Vegas, about 85 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

It is “a long-term event,” officials in the two counties said. “We don’t anticipate having ‘control’ of this fire any time soon.”

CNN’s Gregory Lemos, Theresa Waldrop, Nikki Carvajal and Monique Smith contributed to this report

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