Fire victims voice frustrations to governor over FEMA response

Fire victims voice frustrations to governor over FEMA response
Fire victims voice frustrations to governor over FEMA response

It was two years ago when that historic wildfire changed northern New Mexico forever, burning nearly 350,000 acres and destroying hundreds of homes.

“I’m so, so terribly, tragically sorry, this shouldn’t have happened. No one should have been impacted like this. And 24 months of hell following fires is also completely unfair,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said while addressing New Mexicans impacted by the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak Fire Thursday.

It was two years ago when that historic wildfire changed northern New Mexico forever, burning nearly 350,000 acres and destroying hundreds of homes. It started as two controlled burns by the US Forest Service and President Joe Biden said the feds would pay the cost to rebuild.

Yet, two years later, many are still waiting on that money and still suffering in the meantime.

Many fire victims told the governor that even though the flames are out, it still feels like their communities are burning. They don’t know how much longer they can wait for the help promised to them.

The biggest issue appears to be the lack of financial assistance. Congress approved more than $2.5 billion in federal money to help rebuild homes and repair other damage, but many victims say they haven’t received a dime. They also said that’s especially tough after FEMA started distributing money for smoke damage earlier this year.

Many victims said the lack of action is only leading to more issues, including destructive burn scar flooding, falling trees, destroyed farmland, clogged ditches, and so on.

FEMA officials say they’ve received 12,000 total claims so far, and they’re getting through more of them faster. But many fire victims said Thursday that they’ve suffered more than money can fix.

This is not the first time these fire victims have shared their heartbreak, but it was the first time they got to share it with the governor face to face. Lujan Grisham made it clear she is just as angry with the lack of assistance.

“I don’t think that things are working nearly as well as we should, as expected or deserved,” Lujan Grisham said. “When something is improperly, purposely taken from you, the people who took it have to give it back. That’s what we’re doing. “We haven’t done the best job, we can do a much better job.”

The governor directed FEMA officials – during the meeting – to check if newly installed emergency sirens are operational after a farmer said he’s never heard them go off during floods.

The governor also admitted Thursday was the first time she’s heard of some specific issues. Lujan Grisham made it clear she’s willing to leverage state resources to address those now.

 
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