Federal government to cover all Cerro Pelado Fire project costs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — President Joe Biden signed off on an amended disaster declaration that will cover all project costs related to the Cerro Pelado Fire in New Mexico.

The new declaration states federal funds for public assistance “increased to 100% of total eligible costs for projects undertaken in response to the Cerro Pelado Fire.”

Last month, the U.S. Forest Service said their prescribed burn caused the fire. They also claimed responsibility for the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire.

When President Biden visited New Mexico last year, he promised the federal government would cover all costs associated with that fire. Then, Congress passed $4 billion in relief late last year.

So far, the claims office has paid landowners around $14 million. The office is also currently processing around $50 million worth of claims.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released the following statement:

“I am grateful to President Biden for recognizing the federal government’s responsibility to cover the costs associated with this disaster caused by the U.S. Forest Service’s mismanagement of a prescribed burn,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “The victims of the Cerro Pelado fire are still recovering, and I encourage FEMA to get this money out the door as quickly as possible so that impacted New Mexicans can rebuild their communities.”

Sen. Ben Ray Lujan shared the following statement:

“Ahead of President Biden’s visit to New Mexico, I am glad that the president is taking action to strengthen the federal response to the Cerro Pelado Fire. This is the second pile burn that was not properly extinguished in New Mexico last year, and the federal government must do everything possible to help New Mexico communities recover.

“I also plan to introduce legislation to expand the FEMA Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Claim’s Office to include those impacted by the Cerro Pelado Fire. I was proud to pass the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act into law, but it’s clear that more must be done to make New Mexicans whole from these devastating fires.”

Sen. Martin Heinrich shared the following statement:

“Given the Forest Service’s responsibility for the Cerro Pelado Fire, it is only right for the federal government to cover 100% of the resulting recovery costs. The New Mexico Congressional Delegation will continue to deliver the federal resources New Mexicans need to make a full recovery from last year’s historic wildfire season and to restore the health of the forests and watersheds that our communities rely on.”