‘Rising from the Ashes’ event brings Las Vegas community together

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LAS VEGAS, N.M. – People in and around Las Vegas have struggled as mother nature threw them her worst. First, the largest and most destructive wildfire in New Mexico’s history put the community on edge.

The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire never made it inside the city but more than 300 homes in the area were destroyed, leaving many families with nothing.

“We do have our lives and I am thankful to God for that, but I miss my home and it’s just gone,” said Michelle Montoya.

The ongoing fire threat also took the lives of these four first responders from Bernalillo County. They were flying home after battling the East Mesa Fire near Las Vegas when their helicopter crashed, killing everyone on board.

And once the fire threats were over, the city had to brace itself for destructive floods intensified by nearby burn scars. On Friday, those floods turned deadly when two women were killed after their vehicle was swept away, and a third person is still missing.

“Well sad of course you know what I mean people didn’t need to die you know,” said Steven Quintana, Las Vegas resident. 

Despite those tragedies, the town of Las Vegas and surrounding communities got a bit of normalcy Saturday as people came together at the “Rising from the Ashes” event at the Las Vegas Plaza.

Information booths lined the plaza helping folks file for federal funding. But just steps away, families took a load off and played yard games and listened to music in the plaza.

“An event like this says we know you are still here, we know you are still dealing with it, and we are still with you and I really appreciate that it’s really meaningful,” said Cyn Palmer, Las Vegas resident.

A return to normalcy for a community whose summer has been anything but normal.

“It was like a never ending nightmare weeks and weeks I don’t how long, eight weeks of evacuations,” said Rock Ulibarri.

“I’ve been out of my home since April 10th except for the two days I was allowed to go back and then the fire moved into my village,” said Palmer.

Families were evacuated and homes were destroyed, but New Mexico’s congressional delegation is working in Washington D.C. to make sure the state gets the federal help it needs.

“None of us I think have gone through anything as a community this excruciatingly sad and destructive, but we have don’t it with our comunidad and familia and that’s what makes a difference,” said U.S. congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez.

A bill with federal aid has already passed the House and is now working its way through the Senate. 

Senator Ben Ray Luján is hopeful it will pass in early September.

“We have a lot of work to do everybody but I know you are spirited, strong and thank you for the work you have done, lets hold people accountable to make sure you remain whole,” said Luján.

A reminder these communities have not been forgotten.