Biden agrees federal government will foot bill for New Mexico wildfires

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Saturday, President Joe Biden accepted as much of the bill for New Mexico’s wildfire recovery as he could under federal law. The only way for the federal obligation to grow would be through (literally) an act of Congress.

“We need to be sure this doesn’t happen again,” Biden said during a visit to the state, which continues to suffer from raging wildfires that, as was previously reported on FISM, were started when a controlled burn site the National Forestry Service believed was extinguished reignited after months of dormancy.

Biden then revealed that the federal government would pay for 100 percent of debris removal and emergency protective measures. Previously, this cost was shared by state and federal entities.

“We will be here for you in response and recovery as long as it takes,” Biden said.

The president said he was amenable to having the federal government pay for damages caused by the fires but acknowledged that such a move was beyond the power of his office.

Unsurprisingly, Biden’s announcement was met with applause from ranking Democrats in the state.

“I am deeply grateful to President Biden for announcing today that the federal government will cover 100% of costs for emergency protective work and debris removal under our existing wildfire disaster declaration,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who was on hand for the president’s visit, tweeted, “Our NM delegation had a productive visit from @POTUS this afternoon. He was shown the destruction brought on by the wildfires, and we talked about the resources and funding our state still needs to get people back on their feet.”

According to the White House, President Biden was able to see plumes of smoke from Air Force One as the plane approached its landing strip. Biden compared the scene to a “moonscape.”

To date, the New Mexico wildfires have consumed more than 320,000 acres while residents in the path of the conflagration have faced a persistent threat of danger to themselves and their homes.

Saturday. there was a piece of welcome news for at least some New Mexico residents. Lujan Grisham announced that residents of Rio Arriba County no longer faced an evacuation order.

Such an announcement might seem minimal but, given that earlier in the day county officials had announced a wildfire had grown to 3,500 acres with no containment, it stood as a sign that emergency responders were still finding ways to protect life and property.