New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has requested a presidential disaster declaration as a series of wildfires burning throughout the state has forced thousands of residents to evacuate and destroyed scores of homes. With windy and dry conditions forecast in the state, officials say even more homes could be evacuated and destroyed.
“I have families who don’t know what the next day looks like,” Grisham said Tuesday afternoon. “I have families who are trying to navigate their children, their own health care resources, figure out their livelihoods, and they’re in every single little community.”
The governor’s disaster request includes individual and public aid, like housing assistance, crisis counselling, disaster unemployment and child care assistance for residents in affected counties. It has yet to be granted by the White House.
The Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire, one of New Mexico’s largest current blazes, has burned 160,104 acres as of Wednesday and is 20% contained, according to fire officials. Two fires were ignited in April and eventually merged together to create the massive blaze that has forced more than 6,000 people to evacuate and has destroyed at least 166 homes, Grisham said.
Around 1,208 personnel are responding to the fire located near Gallinas Canyon as heavy mixed conifer, ponderosa pine, brush and grass continue fueling it.
“One house lost to one New Mexico family is too many,” the governor said. “We are very grateful for the work of the firefighters and fire responders.”
Meanwhile, the Cooks Peak Fire — located nearly 46 miles north of Las Vegas, New Mexico — has burned 59,359 acres and is 89% contained. More than 800 homes have been evacuated, and New Mexico Highway 120 remains closed. New Mexico Fire Information forecasts “critical fire weather” to continue as personal focus on suppressing the blaze.
In Sandoval County, the fast-moving Cerro Pelado Fire has burned 26,927 acres and is 13% contained as of Wednesday. According to Grisham, many homes and businesses are within the blaze’s path. It has already destroyed three homes and prompted 200 evacuations.
“We believe more losses are likely in this fire,” the governor said.
Firefighters are also watching another fire, called the Bear Trap Fire near Bear Trap Canyon, which sparked on May 1. The blaze is 2,309 acres and 0% contained as of Wednesday. There are no evacuations in effect as it exhibits moderate fire behavior, officials said.
Grisham warned that each fire is “high risk” and encouraged residents to heed directions from local officials. Additionally, “widespread, very dangerous fire weather” is forecast in New Mexico throughout the weekend into early next week, according to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
“A slow-moving, strong system will be responsible for very strong winds with dry conditions not going anywhere,” the weather agency tweeted. “Ongoing fires and new starts will be able to spread rapidly.”