Relief Options

With Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire expanding, there’s a growing need for donations to legitimate sources

As the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires encroach on Las Vegas, officials released evacuation orders for parts of the city on Monday. But many facilities in and around the city have already taken leave.

The Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas evacuated all 197 patients to other facilities around the state—taking some residents as far as Truth or Consequences and Santa Clara, near Silver City.

The San Miguel County jail evacuated over the weekend, transferring people to other jails across four counties.

Also this weekend, the United World College in Montezuma, an international high school northwest of Las Vegas, moved hundreds of students to the Glorieta Center.

With winds still fueling the blaze that has bedeviled firefighters for almost a month, officials warned over the weekend that it could reach 200,000 acres before it is contained. The current footprint of the combined Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires sits at 120,653 acres and 20% containment.

Over the last week, as more communities were evacuated, the need for supplies and financial support also grew. Nonprofits, organizations and government agencies have stepped in to connect those in need with donors. But with the ever-changing nature of wildfires and the need to get resources to groups as quickly as possible, officials warn donors of opportunists hoping to make a quick buck.

New Mexico Highlands University published a page of resources, outlining a list of organizations soliciting donations. The list includes the American Red Cross, HELP New Mexico, Salvation Army and Las Vegas NM Community Foundation.

Other statewide efforts to get money and resources to families impacted by the numerous wildfires across the state include the All Together NM Fund.

Established in 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund is a collaboration between the New Mexico Coalition of Community Foundations and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office. Donations to the fund will help finance emergency shelters, food and water distribution and access to medical support.

The Food Depot has been collecting food and hygiene supplies since the middle of last week and “as always, the Santa Fe community is very generous and we have a steady stream of donations coming in,” says Sherry Hooper, the nonprofit’s executive director.

When responding to disasters, Hooper tells SFR The Food Depot collects items based on the needs outlined by the emergency managers working in that area.

While shelters and food pantries have been able to provide meals to those who have been evacuated, Hooper says the need for hygiene products is urgent.

Firefighters and evacuees need lip balm, women’s menstrual products, soap, toothpaste, Q-tips, socks and sunblock. Hooper adds individually wrapped, non-perishable snacks and bottled water would go a long way.

The Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association called for supplies—including underwear, femine hygiene products and specific food items—to be dropped off at the Santa Fe Habitat ReStore Monday morning. Miles Conway, the association’s executive officer, tells SFR that those supplies, including 2,000 eggs, were brought to the Glorieta Conference Center, which is serving as evacuation site.

Across social media, a number of fundraising websites have cropped up in recent weeks soliciting donations. Wendy Mason, New Mexico Forestry Divisions spokeswoman, says people should try to verify the authenticity of fundraising efforts to ensure the money is going to the right people.

“The best thing is to really look into it. Make sure it’s something that’s legitimate before you donate,” Mason tells SFR.

Mason doesn’t point to any specific examples of fraud her office has witnessed related to the wildfires burning New Mexico, but “there is the potential for a lot of fraud out there, and we’ve seen it happen.”

Elmo Baca, chairman of the Las Vegas NM Community Foundation, tells SFR he has heard reports of people requesting resources who “probably shouldn’t be claiming some of the aid.”

He notes that due to the fire’s size and complexity, accessing homes to assess the damage is difficult, which just adds to the uncertainty around the process of donating money and supplies.

His task is to make sure the money coming into his community foundation goes to the nonprofit organizations and groups in San Miguel and Mora counties directly working with those impacted by the fires.

Some of the organizations Baca has already been able to help: Main Street de Las Vegas, which is providing meals to evacuees; and Animal Welfare Coalition, which is taking care of animals displaced by the fire.

The Santa Fe Fire Department is collecting supplies for ranchers and farmers impacted by the fires, asking for troughs, hay, bowls, crates and paper products for animals. Fire Chief Brian Moya tells SFR that supplies for livestock are being used to set up temporary pens for animals displaced by the fires.

Those looking to donate livestock supplies or other food and hygiene products can drop them off at Fire Station 5 off Siler Road.

Mason tells SFR that everyone can be of assistance: “What we need is for the public to be vigilant and don’t do anything that could start a new fire. The more fires we have, the more strain it will put on our resources.”

To donate items and supplies:

The Food Depot, 1222 A Siler Road, 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday

Fire Station 5, 1130 Siler Road, 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday

Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association, 2520 Camino Entrada Ste. A, 9 am to 4 pm, Monday through Saturday

To donate money:

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.