Luján Statement on Forest Service Report on Las Dispensas Burn
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) issued the following statement on the U.S. Forest Service report on the Gallinas-Las Dispensas Prescribed Fire that led to the Hermit’s Peak Fire:
“As New Mexicans, we know when it’s too dry or too windy to start a fire, but the Forest Service underestimated this risk and proceeded with a prescribed burn that resulted in the largest wildfire in New Mexico history. Mistakes were made by the Forest Service that led to thousands of New Mexicans being evacuated from their homes, losing their belongings, and having their lives turned upside down. The federal government was responsible for this fire, and it must be held accountable and take responsibility to help New Mexicans rebuild. This report identifies what went wrong and shares the hard lessons learned from this tragedy.
“It’s critical that the Forest Service makes improvements to their prescribed burn process to ensure a disaster like this never happens again. Many of the needs identified in this report – like more training and education, improved modeling and forecasting, and better tools for situational awareness – are addressed by my National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program Act. I am also fighting for my Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act which will strengthen federal assistance for New Mexicans impacted by this wildfire. I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that this fire has had on the lives of New Mexicans, and I will do everything possible to help our communities recover and to ensure that we use the best tools, the latest science, and the necessary resources to steward our cherished lands and forests.”