FEMA opens claims process for NM wildfire victims
Victims of the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak fire can now begin applying for compensation for losses caused by the largest blaze in state history. The fire charred almost 350,000 acres in Northern New Mexico last spring and summer after U.S. Forest Service prescribed burns got out of control. The federal government has accepted responsibility and Monday the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened the claims process.
For the next two years, victims of the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak fire can mail or email a “Notification of Loss” form to the federal government to claim a share of the $2.5 billion Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act fund.
It’s the first step in getting compensation to victims of the wildfires. One that Hermit's Peak Calf/Canyon Claims Office Director Angela Gladwell says is fairly simple – just a few pages to fill out with only basic details.
Gladwell described the three pages that need to be completed by a claimant as “a space for them to broadly categorize the types of loss that they have – there’s no need for any documentation," she said. "And then it asks them if they’ve received other recovery assistance.” There is a bit more to the form like contact information and a promise that the claimant is being truthful.
The opening of the claims process also marks the beginning of the public comment period for the program that will be open through January 13th.
Many fire victims voiced concerns about compensation for losses that are hard to document, like access to grazing space, firewood, and waterways. Gladwell said FEMA intends to hire local experts when possible to help evaluate claims, but also suggested fire victims make public comments if they have concerns about the suggested rules.
Relief funds are expected to start going out within three to four months.
This report is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM radio and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.