N.M. Congressional Democrats Introduce Legislation to Increase Federal Assistance to New Mexicans Impacted by Hermit’s Peak Fire
Washington, D.C. – Today, 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.) introduced the Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act to provide additional compensation New Mexico residents and business owners impacted by the Hermit’s Peak Fire. The Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act would require FEMA to design and administer a program for fully compensating those who suffered personal injury, property losses, business and financial losses resulting from the Hermit’s Peak Fire.
The Hermit’s Peak Fire, which later merged with the Calf Canyon Fire, started from an approved prescribed fire plan by U.S. Forest Service fire personnel on the Santa Fe National Forest. The combined fire has destroyed more than 200 homes, burned more than 200,000 acres of land, and resulted in evacuations of more than 25,000 individuals in San Miguel and Mora Counties.
Last week, Senators Heinrich and Luján, along with the entire New Mexico Congressional Delegation, called for the approval of a Major Disaster Declaration. Senator Luján joined President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to sign the declaration so much needed funding and services can be provided on-the-ground to local communities affected by the historic wildfires.
“The historic wildfires burning across our state have put so many New Mexicans in impossible situations. I am working closely with our entire congressional delegation to pull every lever we can to usher the federal resources New Mexico needs to respond to these fires, rebuild our homes and communities, and combat the elevated wildfire risks fueled by the climate crisis going forward. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to support families and businesses in northern New Mexico impacted by the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Complex Fire so they can recover from this devastation,” said Heinrich.
“As the Hermit’s Peak Fire continues to leave a devastating impact on our state, the federal government must take responsibility for its role in this fire and remain active in providing relief to New Mexicans whose daily lives have been upended,” said Luján. “While we don’t know the full extent of damage from this catastrophic fire, I’m introducing legislation that would require FEMA to fully compensate New Mexico residents and business owners who’ve been impacted. It’s critical to get this legislation swiftly to President Biden’s desk to get this relief out to our communities urgently to support the recovery process.”
“Everyone in New Mexico is grieving over the loss of our beautiful forests, communities and memories, from Gallinas canyon to the meadows and mesas in Mora where cattle and elk grazed, and the streams that nourished our acequias and farmlands. We will not replace in our lifetimes the forest landscape. But the federal government can and must take responsibility for the harm the prescribed burn unleashed on our homelands,” said Leger Fernández. “The federal government compensated the residents of Los Alamos county harmed by the prescribed burn-induced Cerro Grande wildfire – we must do the same for the residents of Mora and San Miguel counties harmed by the Las Dispensas prescribed burn.”
“Our communities are experiencing unprecedented early-season wildfires, leaving devastating impacts on our state and forcing evacuations across New Mexico,” said Stansbury. “As the Hermit’s Peak Fire continues to disrupt the lives of families across New Mexico, I’m proud to introduce legislation that would require FEMA to fully compensate New Mexico residents who have faced the impacts of the Hermit’s Peak Fire.”
Allowable damages under The Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act:
- Loss of property, including: an uninsured or underinsured property loss; a decrease in the value of real property; damage to physical infrastructure; a cost resulting from lost Tribal subsistence from hunting, fishing, firewood gathering, timbering, grazing, or agricultural activities conducted on land damaged by the fire; a cost of reforestation or revegetation on Tribal or non-Federal land;
- Business loss, to include: damage to tangible assets or inventory; business interruption losses; overhead costs; and employee wages for work not performed;
- Financial loss, to include: increased mortgage interest costs; in insurance deductible; a temporary living or relocation expense; lost wages or personal income; emergency staffing expenses; debris removal and other cleanup costs; a premium for flood insurance; and costs for efforts to reduce the risk of wildfire, flood, or other natural disaster in the counties specified in the major disaster declaration; and
- Any other damages that the FEMA Administrator determines to be appropriate for inclusion as property, business, or financial loss.
Full text of the bill is available HERE.