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FBI offering $10,000 reward for help finding arsonists in New Mexico wildfires

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(The Center Square) – The FBI wants to know who is responsible for the South Fork and Salt fires surrounding Ruidoso, offering up to $10,000 as a reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of “the person or persons responsible for starting the fires near Ruidoso, New Mexico,” according to its website.

The FBI’s Albuquerque field office declined to say whether or not the FBI thinks people set the fires on tribal lands intentionally or if it thinks the same individuals started both fires, according to The Santa Fe New Mexican.

So far, the fires have destroyed over 1,400 structures, including 500 homes, and killed two people, according to KOAT.

As the FBI seeks the perpetrators of the fire, President Joe Biden declared that New Mexico has a major disaster ongoing on June 20. It came one day after Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham filed a Major Disaster Declaration request, according to a press release from her office.

The declaration will offer assistance to people, households, and businesses in the impacted areas of Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Tribe. The state hopes the government will later include Otero County in its disaster declaration.

“We commend President Biden for approving the Major Disaster Declaration so quickly,” a press release issued by the entire New Mexico congressional delegation said. “The South Fork and Salt Fires are serious and threatening multiple communities, with two confirmed fatalities and hundreds of homes and businesses already destroyed. Our thoughts are with the families of those who have been lost to these fires and the thousands of New Mexicans who have had to flee their homes. And our gratitude is with the firefighters, first responders, local and Tribal leaders, and neighboring communities helping respond to this disaster. We will continue to work with FEMA and the State to make sure that Otero County and all New Mexicans impacted by this disaster receive the federal support they need.”

The federal government will also offer public assistance for emergency work and repairing and replacing damaged facilities. This includes debris removal, emergency protective measures, and direct federal assistance.

New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham signed executive orders on June 20 to provide $5.25 million more in emergency funds for the Department of Homeland Security Management in its fire response effort. She also signed one deploying the National Guard to support civil authorities during the emergency, according to a release from her office.

Additionally, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Fire Grants and Safety Act late last week. Filed by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, in the Senate, the bill would reauthorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program through 2030 and the United States Fire Administration through 2028. Since the bill passed in the U.S. House last month, it will likely become law.

The South Fork Fire expanded to 16,614 acres over the weekend and had been 26% contained, according to the state’s website. Meanwhile, the Salt Fire was 7,652 acres and only 7% contained.

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