President Biden promised the federal government would cover 100 percent of the recovery costs of the colossal wildfire burning in New Mexico.
The fire, which has been raging since April 6, has grown to be the largest in the state’s history, engulfing an area 500 square miles and destroying hundreds of homes, federal authorities said.
The US Forest Service accidentally sparked the blaze in a botched prescribed burn operation, Biden acknowledged.
“We need to be sure this doesn’t happen again,” Biden told reporters during a visit to an emergency operations center in Santa Fe on Saturday, where he announced the federal government would be increasing its assistance to combat the fire.
The president pledged that costs for emergency response and debris removal — which are typically split between the federal and state governments — would be fully covered by Washington.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham thanked Biden for how his administration “leaned in from the very beginning — not only identifying how the fire was caused by actions by the US Forest Service,” she said on Saturday.
“This is why I think we need the federal government to keep accepting responsibility, and I know that you have been reviewing requests to cover 100% of the costs of the virus related recovery efforts,” she added.
Biden said he also supports having Washington pay for damages caused by the fire, but such action would require congressional approval.
Thousands of New Mexico residents have been displaced from the fire, many from rural villages with high poverty rates. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and grazing land have been destroyed and many family businesses were also lost in the devastating blaze.