NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – As federal disaster relief crews are hitting the ground, responding to New Mexico’s destructive wildfires, the state says nearly 200 households have already received some level of financial assistance. The update from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state leaders came Tuesday morning after what was projected to be roughly 100 hours of winds and extreme temperatures over the weekend.
The state’s largest wildfires saw significant growth over the weekend. However, state leaders say there have been no new reports between Saturday and Monday about new structure loss in the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire in San Miguel and Mora Counties.
However, the Governor was quick to note Tuesday that emergency crews have not been able to do a thorough structure evaluation to confirm that no new structures were lost. “For me, even though its unconfirmed, it’s really good news,” Governor Lujan Grisham said Tuesday.
Discussing the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire, the Governor highlighted a loss in containment over the weekend as winds helped spread the fire. The fire dropped from 43% to 39% containment over the weekend while growing to more than 200,000 acres.
“Given this historic, extreme, windy weather, earnestly, this is probably the best outcome over the last couple of days on this fire [that] we could have hoped for,” said Governor Lujan Grisham. “We are not out of danger in any respect.”
At least 166 homes have been burned in the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire. However, that number hasn’t been updated in several days, according to New Mexico State Forester Laura McCarthy, because of safety concerns with crews surveying an active fire area.
While evacuations have been downgraded to “ready and “set levels as of Tuesday along the southeast edge of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire near communities like West Las Vegas, evacuations continue in vast areas on the northern part of the fire. Around a dozen communities around Mora have been evacuated on the north side of the fire.
The Cerro Pelado Fire also continues to be of concern. That fire grew more than 10,000 acres over the weekend and remains burning southwest of Los Alamos. It remains 11% contained, burning around 43,000 acres. Much of the fire’s growth has been on the northeast edge, moving now within roughly 7 miles of the boundaries of Los Alamos National Laboratory property.
Federal disaster response officials with FEMA are now working in Lincoln, Sandoval, San Miguel and Taos Counties. The Governor said Tuesday at least 184 households have applied for and received some relief totaling roughly $130,000.
“It’s a bumpy process between Red Cross, FEMA and HUD and any number of opportunities for relief,” Governor Lujan Grisham said. For FEMA assistance, people are encouraged to apply on the federal website: www.disasterassistance.gov.
According to the governor, FEMA is continuing to build its team, which will include 28 people in four teams of seven people. A FEMA Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, Sandy Eslinger is leading the response in New Mexico.
The state released figures Tuesday about the costs of fighting the wildfires. An estimated $50 million has been spent fighting the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire. The Cerro Pelado Fire is estimated to have cost nearly $16 million.