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State, feds offer disaster declarations in response to New Mexico wildfires

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(The Center Square) – The South Fork Fire and Salt Fire have burned over 23,000 acres in New Mexico and left two people dead, according to KPLC.

Though a big rainstorm on Wednesday provided moisture for the air, helping slow down the fire, hot and dry conditions on Monday allowed the fires to spread quickly. Thus far, about 1,400 homes and other structures have been destroyed, according to KOB. The fire also caused over 8,000 people to evacuate their homes, according to a release from Lujan Grisham’s office.

President Joe Biden declared that New Mexico has a major disaster ongoing on Thursday, responding to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Major Disaster Declaration request filed one day prior, according to the Biden White House.

Biden ordered federal aid to help states, municipalities, and tribes in their recovery efforts. This action makes federal funding available to people impacted by the fires in Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

Some of this assistance includes temporary housing and home repair grants, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses, among other programs designed to help businesses and people recover from natural disasters.

The federal government will also provide funding to local governments and some nonprofit organizations for emergency work in Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Tribe. It will also provide federal funding statewide for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

“Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed,” the release said.

Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency in Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation on Tuesday, in response to the wildfires.

“The horrific South Fork Fire and Salt Fire have ravaged our lands and property, and forced thousands to flee their homes,” Lujan Grisham said. “We are deploying every available resource to control these wildfires, and to provide support to the Village of Ruidoso, the Mescalero Reservation, and surrounding areas. I extend my deepest appreciation to the courageous firefighters battling these blazes, as well as everyone who has pitched in to help a community in crisis. I urge everyone to heed official orders at all times to stay safe.”

Here are some provisions of the executive orders she signed in response to the fire, according to the release:

The State’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is tasked with coordinating all requests for assistance and responses.Deployment of National Guard to provide military support to civil authorities as needed during this emergency.All Cabinet Departments and agencies under gubernatorial control are directed to provide necessary assistance as required by DHSEM or the state Emergency Operations Center.

The Southern New Mexico Community Foundation has partnered with the Community Foundation of Lincoln County to create the Greatest Needs Impact Fund. The fund provides money to Lincoln and Otero counties. “This fund provides financial resources to support the immediate and long-term recovery needs for the people, animals, and places affected by the devastating wildfires in Southern New Mexico,” the release said. “The fund is also supported by the ongoing Shelter Fund, New Mexico Wildfire Relief Fund, and Emergency Action Fund held within the Albuquerque Community Foundation.”

People who want to contribute to the fund can do so here.

Currently, two spots are offering evacuation space for livestock: ENM Fairgrounds in Roswell and Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington. Those interested in using the spaces can contact Lea County Fairgrounds Director Wyatt Duncan at 575-333-0252.

Plus, the following locations are providing shelter for people, the release said:

The Inn of the Mountain Gods Convention Center, 287 Carrizo Canyon Road, MescaleroEastern New Mexico University-Roswell Gym, 52 B University Blvd.Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, 2500 SE Main St., RoswellNew Mexico Military Institute Athletic Center, 101 W College Blvd., RoswellChurch on the Move, 901 W. Brasher Rd., RoswellChurch on the Move Dream Center, 2700 W. Second, RuidosoCapitan High School, 519 Smokey Bear Blvd., CapitanCarrizozo High School, 800 D Ave., CarrizozoChrist Community Church, 2960 N Scenic Dr., Alamogordo

Plus, the New Mexico Military Institute and the Roswell Civic Center accept evacuees who want to shelter with their leashed pets.

People can check the current smoke conditions in their area here.

People who sustained losses from the wildfires can apply for assistance by visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov, calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or using the FEMA App.

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