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President Biden is slated to visit New Mexico on Saturday amid a highly active fire season, as anger continues to simmer over the cause of the state’s largest recorded blaze.
The president will meet with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has called for the federal government to cover the entirety of recovery costs from the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires.
The merged fires have spread over 319,841 acres and were 67% contained, with 2,685 personnel working amidst windy conditions.
Both fires – which had destroyed several hundred New Mexico homes – were traced back to prescribed burns set by the US Forest Service.
Fire suppression efforts cost the state millions and the governor’s office claimed the agency would pay for 100% of the price tag.
Mora County residents – whom the governor visited last week – sued the Forest Service, hoping to obtain more information.
Evacuations have also displaced thousands of residents, with fear of flames replaced by concern over mudslides.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved more than 900 disaster relief claims, totaling close to $3 million.
Residents are worried that they would receive compensation for the damage they’ve suffered.
Proposed legislation from Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, DN.M., would offer full compensation for nearly all lost property and income linked to the fire.
On Thursday, the Biden administration amended the disaster declaration for New Mexico, according to the Albuquerque Journal, allowing FEMA to offer additional types of assistance to help rebuild.
The move extended eligible financial relief to the repair of water facilities, irrigation ditches, bridges and roads.
The Santa Fe New Mexican notes that state officials are pressing President Biden to waive the 25% nonfederal cost share requirement for federal assistance, as current approval will only cover 75% of fire-related damage costs.
Like much of the country, extreme heat is expected in New Mexico on Saturday, with dry storms expected each afternoon through Monday.
western wildfires have become a year-round threat and scientists and fire experts say they are moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.