The unprecedented damage done by the Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fires and floods is a step closer to being addressed, thanks to a bill passed by the New Mexico state senate.
Senators voted 39-0 to approve Senate Bill 6, which provides up to $100 million in zero-interest loans to counties and towns for the purpose of rebuilding local roads, culverts and acequias, all of which were extremely damaged by the fires and subsequent flooding.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Pete Campos, described the impact of the fires and floods as a life- changing event that would have ripple effects for generations.
Work is also being done on the federal level to approve nearly $4 billion in relief funds for wildfire victims. However, there has been criticism of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) in how long it’s taken to get assistance to residents who’ve been suffering for nearly a year now.
FEMA says a claims office will be open for those impacted by the Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fire by March of 2023.
The fire began as two separate fires which merged in April of 2022 after a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn during dry, windy conditions blew out of control igniting and destroying more than 340,000 acres of land. The largest wildfire in modern New Mexico history, more than 900 structures were burned, many of which were homes.
It was announced months ago that the federal aid package was approved and would be distributed, but FEMA has yet to disperse any of that money, leaving residents frustrated and politicians furious. The state funding package is one of several currently proposed during the legislative session. A second proposal is attempting to ban prescribed burns whenever the U.S. National Weather Services issues a “red flag” warning about high winds and/or dangerous fire conditions.
“The people of Northern New Mexico have suffered greatly,” said Singleton Schreiber Managing Partner Gerald Singleton. “We have clients who lost everything they owned and whose entire way of life has been destroyed. We applaud the efforts by the Legislature and the Governor to address the damage done to the infrastructure in the City of Las Vegas and in San Miguel and Mora Counties.”
After the initial fires, floodwaters from rainy season rolled down the scorched hillsides to devastate many communities for a second time. Many residents in Las Vegas and other areas are still struggling with clean drinking water. With climate change impacting water sources for the entire southwestern United States, any impact on a community’s water supply has exponential consequences.
In the fall, Las Vegas’ water supply was in such dire straits, that the city informed residents it had only three weeks left. While they city was able to address this issue at the time, any impact this year may not have any fixes.
Of the proposals currently being worked on the state legislature, addressing the water supply is at the top of everyone’s mind.
Singleton Schreiber’s Las Vegas and Mora offices are offering assistance to local residents throughout the process of filing claims.
With local New Mexico lawyers supported by the nation’s leading fire litigation firm, Singleton Schreiber is uniquely placed to help residents with any sort of claim or potential legal action on this issue.