Hawaii fire victims to get financial aid similar to New Mexicans last year

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. –  Victims of the wildfires in Hawaii that have killed 106 people as of Wednesday are now getting payments under the same program that hundreds of New Mexicans did last year. 

Thankfully, there were no deaths directly from the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire last year, but thousands lost their homes, and much of northeast New Mexico is still recovering. 

FEMA is giving Hawaiians affected by the wildfires $700 for food, medical supplies, and other needs. 

After the 2022 fires, New Mexicans who applied received $500 through the same program. The $200 difference can be attributed to the cost of living estimates in the two states. 

According to the FEMA claims office, more than a year after the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire, the agency has paid out $27 million.

“Payments are continuing every day. We will be working on claims until every claimant receives the fair and equitable compensation they are due under the law,” a rep shared in a statement.

KOB 4 asked FEMA officials whether the recovery efforts in Hawaii would slow down the processes in New Mexico. They provided a link detailing the efforts in Hawaii but didn’t address the processes in New Mexico.

Below are reactions from New Mexico’s congressional delegation:

Sen. Ben Ray Luján:

“Since passing the Hermit’s Peak/Fire Assistance Act into law, I have been clear that FEMA must get relief out to New Mexicans quickly and efficiently. This is an issue that I raised with the President directly and received his commitment to speed the process up. The federal government started this fire, and now it must do everything possible to make New Mexicans whole.” 

Sen. Martin Heinrich:

“The New Mexico Congressional Delegation has worked tirelessly to make sure the federal funds we secured in the aftermath of the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire are delivered quickly and efficiently to help New Mexicans rebuild. That includes passing the Hermit’s Peak Fire/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act, securing critical funding for emergency disaster programs in the FY23 Omnibus Appropriations Agreement, and continuing to press officials at FEMA to see that this relief reaches the community immediately. I will leave no stone unturned in making sure that New Mexico families and communities impacted by last year’s fires are fully compensated and make a full recovery. And I will continue working to hold FEMA accountable for responding to natural disasters more efficiently and transparently.” 

Rep. Melanie Stansbury:

“My heart goes out to the families suffering in Maui and we stand ready to help. The catastrophic situation in Maui is absolutely devastating and heartbreaking. Tragically, another community is experiencing the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. In New Mexico, our communities are still recovering from the McBride, Calf Canyon, Hermits Peak and other catastrophic fires. It’s critical that we continue to address the climate crisis and fire risk, while also providing the resources our families and communities need to rebuild. That’s why in Congress, I am fighting to ensure our communities have the resources they need to prevent and fight wildfires, to recover and rebuild, and to ensure families receive just compensation.“ 

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced more than a million dollars in funding to reduce wildfire risk and increase awareness in New Mexico: 

The Bureau of Land Management New Mexico State Office today announced that it has awarded a new financial assistance agreement to New Mexico Counties for community wildfire risk reduction, planning, and outreach. The more than $1.2 million award is using funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve the wildfire resiliency of our nation’s lands and protect homes and businesses from increasingly extreme fire seasons being driven by climate change.   

“This investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enables us to continue partnering with New Mexico Counties, a partnership that began in 2005, to reduce wildfire risk in and near communities statewide,” said BLM New Mexico State Director Melanie Barnes. “The projects included in this award will continue this work, while stimulating local employment and business opportunities.”    

Projects in the award include:  

  • The New Mexico Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program, which offers annual grants for hazardous fuels reduction, community wildfire protection plans, and education/outreach activities. Those eligible include county governments or municipalities, non-profits, statutorily recognized political subdivisions, or a Native American Tribe working on behalf of one or more communities at risk from wildfires. Funding level: $571,000. 
  • The New Mexico Wildland Urban Fire Summit, an annual forum to share lessons and bring fire science and information to community members, fire service volunteers and professionals, non-profit conservation groups engaged in fire adaptation, and federal, state and local government representatives. Funding level: $20,000. 
  • The Fire Adapted New Mexico Learning Network, a grass-roots organization dedicated to fostering fire adapted communities to protect residents, homes, infrastructure, businesses, and resources. Partners describe their role in Fire Adapted New Mexico in this video. Funding level: $100,000. 
  • The Timberon Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project, which targets 215 acres for thinning and is being managed in conjunction with the South Central Mountain Resource Conservation and Development Council.  The project will be contracted locally to reduce wildfire risk at Timberon—a high risk community as rated by the NM State Forester’s Community at Risk Assessment—in Otero County, N.M. Funding level: $550,000.
  • The Fire Ecology Learning Lab, an educational project with the Southwest Fire Science Consortium (networked with the Joint Fire Science Program) and Northern Arizona University providing place-based curriculum to teachers and agency staff on fire’s function in the ecosystem. Funding level: $25,000.