Rep. Leger Fernandez calls for compensation for those impacted by Cerro Pelado Fire

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez says she was outraged – but not surprised – after hearing another New Mexico wildfire last year was officially caused by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Forest Service announced earlier this week that the Cerro Pelado Fire started because of a pile burn that was left undetected after a prescribed burn in the area. The Cerro Pelado Fire burned over 45,000 acres and threatened homes in Los Alamos.

Now, Leger Fernandez wants to start fighting for people impacted by that fire. She is calling for compensation.

“I believe that we need to bring justice to this effort,” Leger Fernandez said. “So we will be looking at whether there is an opportunity to also pass legislation that would bring the same kind of resources.”

She said she wants to see a precedent set for prescribed burns that get out of hand.

Right now, there’s a U.S. Government Accountability Office study in the works on whether or not prescribed burns should be used, and the safest way to do them.

“I don’t want the Forest Service to be, you know, grading its own homework, right?” Leger Fernandez said. “We need somebody outside of the Forest Service to be looking at it and giving that critical eye and saying this is what you need to do, to keep people safe to keep our forests safe.”

Leger Fernandez said she wants to work with New Mexico’s senators on new legislation. For now, the congresswoman says there will be challenges getting accountability, but she’s ready to start the fight.

“I am committed to working on that, I can tell you that,” Leger Fernandez said.