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April 13, 2023
Some New Mexico residents who lost their homes and other property in an intentional wildfire set by the US government that went awry earlier this year are now being asked by the government to foot part of the repair bill.
The US Forest Service started a fire in an area northeast of Santa Fe in April in order to reduce the risk and impact of any wildfires that may occur in the area. However, due to what authorities have branded a series of blunders by the USFS, the blaze got out of control and ended up burning over 530 square miles of land, much of it belonging to Indo-Hispanic communities.
The blaze also consumed 432 homes. President Biden visited the area after the blaze in June and pledged to the residents that the federal government would cover 100 percent of the repair costs, even signing a disaster relief declaration to that effect.
However, many of the residents who lost their homes say they have been asked by the US government to chip in 25 percent of the repair bills for some of the reconstruction efforts after the fire.
The federal government has responded to several claims for repairs from residents whose homes were destroyed in the fire by telling them they are required to pay 25 percent of the repair bill, based on a federal statute that supersedes Biden’s emergency declaration.
The USDA’s Emergency Forest Restoration Program “provides cost-share assistance to private forestland owners to repair and rehabilitate damage caused by natural disasters on nonindustrial private forest land.”
Residents have expressed anger over the request to foot the bill for repairs from a fire they did not start. They hope the anticipated passage of a natural disaster relief bill in Congress in the fall will offer them 100 percent relief from the federal government instead of having to pay part of the repair costs themselves.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WASHINGTON POST