LAS VEGAS, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s been a tough year for communities near Las Vegas. First, the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire, now flooding—both of which have kept visitors away. In a community that relies heavily on tourism, it’s been yet another blow.

The Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire is the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history, and it’s devastating impacts continue for the communities that surround it. “It was the biggest disaster we’ve ever seen in our community and we’re still struggling through it with the danger of floods,” says Phillip Martinez, president of the Las Vegas San Miguel Chamber of Commerce.

The natural disaster became a natural deterrent for tourists and visitors which local businesses here have come to rely on. “As you know, the fires got national attention, which was great because we got loads of help from places all over the country—which was really needed. But the downside of that is I think maybe people think that Las Vegas is just burnt to a crispy crunch!” says Elise Renault, business owner in Las Vegas. Renault is one of 20 vendors in Rough Rider Antiques in Las Vegas, and she says her business took a big hit this summer because about 75 percent of it comes from tourists.

Story continues below

Nancy Freeman, the owner of Rough Rider Antiques, agrees: “In terms of our business, I think it was down about half during May and June, during the worst of the wildfire season.”

The Las Vegas San Miguel Chamber of Commerce says while they still have seen some visitors coming through the area, it’s a lot slower than it usually is this time of year. “We really depend on tourists to survive,” Martinez says.

Now, business owners like Renault and Freeman are left to hope that the trickle of tourists will grow in the coming months. “The only thing I’m also a little bit concerned about: because it’s monsoon season it’s been raining a lot more and that also has been very much in the news: about flooding, potential flooding, which is indeed happening. But I hope that’s not scaring away tourists either,” Renault says.

Martinez says COVID also took a toll on tourism, so the area has really been dealt a triple blow. They are hoping the rest of the year visitor numbers pick up.