New Mexicans Affected by Last Year’s Wildfire Get FEMA Aid

April 26, 2023

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Claims Office, charged with administering nearly $4 billion in emergency financial aid for survivors of last year’s record-breaking wildfire in New Mexico, is expected to open its three regional offices to the public Wednesday.

The wildfire was the most destructive in state history, burning 533 square miles (1,380 square kilometers) between early April and mid-June in San Miguel, Mora and Taos counties.

It destroyed more than 900 structures, including several hundred homes, according to authorities.

Ben Akers, external affairs officer for the FEMA claims office in New Mexico, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the agency has hired 43 people to staff the offices in Mora, Santa Fe and Las Vegas, N.M.

He said all FEMA employees serving as “navigators” — those who will take claimants through the claims process — are New Mexico residents, and many of them are from communities affected by the wildfire.

FEMA wants to offer that personal connection to help claimants as they deal with the loss and grief that followed the fire, Akers said.

As of last Friday, the FEMA claims office had received 548 notices of loss associated with the fire.

So far, FEMA workers have reached out to 518 of those claimants to start the process of reviewing and processing claims.

FEMA is sympathetic to those who incurred losses or damages in the fire and wants to begin making partial payments as soon as next month, Akers said.

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