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Anger and distrust stirs among northern NM residents affected by massive wildfires

Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire
Rita Daniels
Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire, May 5, 2022

As the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire continues to ravage northeastern New Mexico, residents are feeling frustrated with the federal government.

They said a reckless prescribed burn, lack of communication, and late aid are the root of the problem.

Hailey Johnson: I live in Guadalupita. Right now, I'm evacuated in Angel Fire and I have evacuated under what I think are the best of circumstances. My best friend opened her house up to me and my family and my animals. But, a lot of people that are down in Mora don't have a good place to evacuate to.

I think one of the big issues that I'm seeing is that there's a real lack of information on the ground. And there's been a lot of confusion among people about like, are they supposed to evacuate the fires so far away from a lot of residents? And now we can't even get information because they don't have internet service. They don't have phone lines working. So, we're kind of in an information desert right now. And I have been pretty disturbed by how the federal government has been quiet.

I had to go through this thing where I woke up and I had to hysterically weep the other day, you know, because it's so upsetting to see all the houses that are being lost. But, a lot of it now, is just this frustration with how you can't get a dialogue going with anyone about these things, but everyone is overburdened. I think that people don't understand what's happening because they can't see it.

Gary Martinez: Right now I'm in Mora close to the Allsupps’s convenience store calling to the landline because cell service is out completely. I stayed back to take care of animals, to water and feed my animals. Had a hard time doing that. We're kind of locked off, blocked off from everything. If we didn't leave, we're stuck here without electricity, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stuff that's been lost. People have freezers full of you know, wild game and beef and they're running around looking for gas for generators and no gas is available

I have heavy equipment and I dug some fire lines around structures, cut some trees. I have two places, one in Mora, one up in the hills area called Chacon.

Maybe it was an accident, nevertheless, the government is responsible for this damage. So, if I lost everything, I would definitely chase them down and see if they can absorb some of the loss because that's my livelihood. Part of my livelihood is my cows. And a lot of these people are.

Norma Avitia: Right now I'm in the parking lot of my job in Angel Fire. I live in Guadalupita and I've lived there for about seven years. When we originally got evacuated, I believe it was April 23rd, there was a lot of confusion because you don't know what's rumor and what's real. But then at the same time, you want to be safe. So it was started with a prescribed burn in horrible conditions. I mean, these are people that we're supposed to trust. And now we're trusting them to put it out after they're the ones who couldn't control it. And

I'm sorry, I'm gonna start crying now...

There is anger there. We've been having to pay for a hotel room now for, off and on, for the past two weeks. And that's coming out of my pocket. And then hotel rooms, you don't have the convenience, especially in a time like this, because it's so limited because everybody's getting around. You don't have the ability to cook in the room. We have to find what we had to eat out and it's costly. If I was at home, I wouldn't have spent as much as you know, like I have now. I mean, it's a struggle. It's a struggle.

Jocelyn Trujillo: When Hermits Peak started, it was far from Mora County, so we weren't too worried about it. But on April 21st, and 22nd it starts to get really scary. On Friday the 22nd, you're getting the alarms on your phone, and those are always freak you out. My parents got displaced that day. They went from a “ready” to a “go” really quick. So it wasn't, you know, you have a couple of days it was like, hey, here it is.

And it is frustrating that it's taken... What are we at? 160,000 acres? Like, Are you kidding me? Like, that's the size of Albuquerque. I don't know where the prevention was. At this point, It's not prevention. Right? That's my opinion. I wish that it would have been prevented that at 50,000 acres things could have been prevented. Instead of, getting to Mora. Where was the prevention? That's what hurts.

Apply for FEMA disaster assistance here. 

Bryce Dix is our new local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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