NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Senator Martin Heinrich toured the fires in New Mexico Friday. News 13 caught up with him to ask him about the forest service’s massive blunder with a prescribed burn that ignited the Calf Canyon Hermits Peak Fire. Despite that outcome, he detailed why the country needs to redouble its fire reduction efforts in the forests.

The U.S. Forest Service started the Hermits Peak Fire with a prescribed burn last month. The winds picked up and the fire blew up. Senator Heinrich said he’s looking for answers, too. “I’ve actually talked to Chief Moore of the forest service and they’re doing a deep-dive in particular on the Hermits Peak ignition,” Heinrich says, “because you can’t afford to have a situation like we just had.”

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The senator is also highlighting his push for more money for more prescribed burns and forest thinning efforts to reduce fire danger in the future. Heinrich, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the forest service budget will go up by $300 million dollars in the coming year. Some of that will go towards more fire reduction and reforestation operations.

“We have to figure out how to do this better, how to protect the community, and how to get our fuel loads down because a lot of the extreme behavior we’re seeing comes from a hundred years of fire suppression coupled with not enough removal of fuel from the system and it’s causing the kind of fires that you can’t effectively fight,” Heinrich says. The fire has damaged or destroyed at least 160 homes — but that figure comes from an update two weeks ago.

Senator Heinrich acknowledged Friday that the restoration work for this fire will likely take years.