Damage estimates rise due to massive wildfires in northern New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – The destruction caused by the largest wildfire in the United States has been devastating for thousands of residents and their lives have been forever disrupted and changed, the governor of New Mexico said Tuesday after touring damage in a county.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham met with landlords and local officials during a survey of homes in two of the many small villages in northern New Mexico that have been burned down in recent weeks after two planned government operations aimed at clearing overgrown areas of the forest have gone wrong. .

The first-term Democrat is prepares for a Saturday visit with President Joe Bidenwho needs to make a quick stopover in New Mexico to be briefed on the wildfires and recovery efforts.

The largest fire charred nearly 500 square miles in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which sits at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains. Much criticism was leveled by residents throughout the rural area due to the federal government’s role in the fire.

After:A day in the life of a Taos crew fighting wildfires

The governor’s office confirmed Tuesday that several hundred homes were destroyed by the fire. This number will likely increase as inspections and documentation continue.

“I have seen firsthand the irrevocable damage that has been done, with historic homes and livelihoods destroyed by the flames,” the governor said in a statement following her tour. “But it also reminded me of the resilience of New Mexicans – I saw neighbors helping neighbors with that same compassion that New Mexicans always show for each other in difficult times.”

The governor also heard about where stimulus assistance has helped and where gaps remain.

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Lujan Grisham and other senior elected officials have called on the federal government to cover 100% of recovery costs. Some have also called for an independent investigation into the U.S. Forest Service’s prescribed fire protocols, even though the agency has suspended those operations pending its own investigation.

While New Mexico has felt the brunt of the fire season so far this year, much of the West has marked particularly hot, dry and windy conditions. Forecasts for the rest of the season do not bode well, with drought and warmer weather brought on by climate change heightening fire danger in overgrown forests in the region.

The National Interagency Fire Center reported Tuesday that thousands of wildland firefighters were working to contain eight large fires that have burned more than 1,130 square miles. Five of those fires are in New Mexico, while Alaska, Arizona and Colorado each have one.

In Alaska, crews were working to protect several structures from a burning fire west of Talkeetna.

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