NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – President Joe Biden just met with state and local officials at the New Mexico State Emergency Operations Center in Santa Fe. There, he was briefed on the state’s largest and most destructive fire, the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire.
The president made it very clear, it’s the U.S. Government’s responsibility to help New Mexico recover. President Biden was apologetic, saying he flew over the wildfires on the way to New Mexico and saw the devastation, saying it looked like a moonscape.
“We have a responsibility to help this state recover and help the families who have been here for centuries and the beautiful northern New Mexico villages who can’t go home and whose livelihoods have been fundamentally changed,” the president said.
Air Force One arrived in Albuquerque at Kirtland Air Force Base around 1:45 p.m. Saturday. President Biden was greeted by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Democratic Congressional Delegation, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
I-25 was shut down, as the president rode with Governor Lujan Grisham to Santa Fe. The president was briefed on the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire at the New Mexico State Emergency Operations.
The U.S. Forest Service is to blame for the largest and most destructive wildfire in state history. The Hermits Peak Fire was started by a prescribed burn. The Calf Canyon Fire was started after a pile burn. The two fires merged and have burned more than 320,000 acres.
Four hundred and thirty-two homes and another 448 structures, including businesses. The president says he wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again. “Every year, the forest service, to put this in perspective, they do a pretty damn good job. They conduct 4,500 prescribed burns; 99.8% go as planned but this time, tragically, it did not,” said President Biden. “That’s why the forest service put a pause on prescribed burns in forest service lands and conducted an intensive 90-day review.”
President Biden stressed the U.S. government will cover 100% of the cost of protective measures. Senator Ben Ray Lujan is sponsoring the Hermits Peak Fire Assistance Act to fully compensate families, which the president is hoping Congress will pass.
The president signed the governor’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration in May Mr. Biden joked, saying when Governor Lujan Grisham asks for something, he just says “yes.”