NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Homeowners affected by the Hermits Peak Calf Cayon Fire are taking a big step at making sure the federal government is held accountable. More than 40 families are pursuing legal action against the Forest Service with more joining every day. Many of them say they’re unable to get the help they need from the federal government which has admitted responsibility for the fires.
“A substantial number of promises have been made to all these home and property owners and what we are looking is complete transparency here,” said Mark Dow, attorney.
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The last report showed the combined fires have now destroyed 432 homes and 448 other structures. The Hermits Peak Fire started as a prescribed burn on April 6 in the Las Dispensas Area. That day there were high winds in the state and the fire quickly burned out of control. The agency told KRQE News 13 early on that the forecast that day fell within the parameters for a prescribed burn and they were not expecting the erratic winds.
Homeowners want to know who made the decision to burn that day. Specifically, they want all plans authorizing the burn, all agreements and contracts of parties who carried out the burn, and rules and regulations that govern prescribed burns. They say to this point, the government has failed to turn over that information.
Attorneys say anyone who has lost property needs to be made whole by the government and the forest service needs to change how they manage forests. The attorneys are now asking a judge to force the Forest Service to hand over the requested records and cover costs of attorney fees.
The lawsuit does not address the Calf Canyon Fire which was determined to have been caused by a control burn started by the Forest Service that sat dormant and reignited April 9.