News

President Biden Approves NM Disaster Declaration

State sets up wildfire dashboard, while governor approves $5.25 million in emergency funding

News A view of the South Fork/Salt fires from Ruidoso (Stephanie Garcia)

Following requests yesterday from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state’s congressional delegation, President Joe Biden today approved a major disaster declaration in response to the South Fork and Salt fires, both of which began June 17 on Mescalero Apache land.

The declaration, for Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Tribe, opens up access to Public Assistance and Individual Assistance funds from FEMA, a news release from the office of US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, says. The initial request also included Otero County, which is still being assessed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the news release says.

“We commend President Biden for approving the Major Disaster Declaration so quickly,” a statement from the delegation says. “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.”

Earlier today, the governor’s office announced a new online Wildfire Dashboard, which, as of press time, showed both fires still at zero percent containment, with South Fork over 16,000 acres and the Salt Fire at about 7,000. No cause has been announced for either as of yet.

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of our communities is our top priority,” the governor said in a statement. “The Wildfire Dashboard is an important resource for New Mexicans, providing them with the timely information they need during wildfire events.”

The governor traveled to Roswell June 19 alongside General Miguel Aguilar, Roswell Mayor Timothy Jennings and US Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM. (Don Gray)

Updated: In addition, the governor signed executive orders authorizing the release of $5.25 million in additional emergency funds for the Department of Homeland Security Management to support relief efforts.

“In the face of such a disaster, it is imperative that we act swiftly,” she said in a statement. “Although there is still a long road to full recovery ahead, these emergency funds will help stabilize these communities and provide much-needed assistance to those in need.”

The Village of Ruidoso and City of Ruidoso Downs both are in “GO” evacuation status, with road closures also in effect. Numerous additional evacuation areas also have been ordered.

A community meeting is scheduled for 5 pm today, Thursday, June 20, which will be held via livestream on the Southwest Incident Management Team 5 Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SWIMT5.


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