New Mexico declares state of emergency after wildfire ash threatened drinking water

A firefighter is seen battling the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire in May. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service-Santa Fe National Forest/Facebook

July 30 (UPI) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday declared a state of emergency in the New Mexico town of Las Vegas after ash and flooding from the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak fire threatened its drinking water.

“I’ve declared a state of emergency in Las Vegas due to burn scar flooding threatening the area’s drinking water supply,” Grisham said in a statement to Facebook.

Grisham said the state has made nearly $2.3 million in funding available to support efforts to make sure Las Vegas residents continue to have a safe supply of drinking water.

“The destruction that continues to befall New Mexico communities affected by the U.S. Forest Service planned burns from earlier this year is unfathomable,” Grisham said.

“New Mexicans in San Miguel County have been through enough. The state will continue to do everything we can to support them and prevent additional damage as a result of the wildfires.”

Grisham on Saturday added that Joe Biden and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have granted her request to including flooding in a disaster declaration the president issued earlier this week providing federal funding for debris removal and emergency protective measures because of the fire.

“As flash flooding continues to threaten New Mexicans in wildfire burn scars in Lincoln, Mora, and San Miguel counties, I am grateful to President Biden and FEMA for granting my request to include flooding in New Mexico’s disaster declaration,” Grisham said Saturday.

“This action will make additional support available for New Mexicans who have already suffered great losses this year. I will keep fighting for every available measure of support for New Mexico families that have been so terribly impacted by wildfires.”

The Hermits Peak Fire has burned more than 341,735 acres since it began on April 6 after a prescribed burn in Santa Fe National Forest.

“Although forecasted weather conditions were within parameters for the prescribed fire, unexpected erratic winds in the late afternoon caused multiple spot fires that spread outside the project boundary,” according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

The fire has since reached 94% containment.