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KOAT: Victims come together on the two-year anniversary of the Hermit's Peak Calf Canyon fire

Updated: 10:44 AM MDT Apr 7, 2024

Alyssa Munoz

Reporter



ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — April 6 marks the two-year anniversary since the biggest fire in New Mexico history happened.


On Saturday, victims came to a roundtable discussion led by Nella Domenici, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat for New Mexico, to talk about how victims could get compensated quicker.


The fire started at Hermit's Peak after the U.S. Forest Service lost control of a prescribed burn. Three days later, another fire started in Calf Canyon because a forest service pile burn wasn't properly extinguished three months before. Those two fires merged more than three weeks later that year, burning over 300,000 acres and destroying at least 900 structures, including several houses.


Luckily, there were no deaths, but some victims say they are still feeling those effects. Benjamin Trujillo is one of many who lost their land to the big fire. He says he remembers when he first went back.


"I walked up there, got to my knees and cried. What became of my property? Me and my family worked so hard to buy this land and it was just gone," Trujillo said.


He said the land he lost was supposed to be for his granddaughter.


"I could see and understand if it would have been an act of God, but this was done through negligence of U.S. forestry," Trujillo said.


He, like others, have been waiting the last two years for any compensation for these damages.


"I'd like to see more done, especially the people that lost homes, that haven't been compensated for the loss of their homes that should be first," said John Bartley.


"It's a disappointment of the federal government, the New Mexico state government and I'm hugely disappointed in our state leaders," Domenici said. "No one should be treated this way it doesn't have to take this long."


Many of the victims we've spoken to say they filed their claims months ago and some have been encouraged to not get a lawyer.


"I hope our government, our representatives and our senators will put these people accountable for our loss and compensate us for what they've done to us," Trujillo said.

Domenici is running for Martin Heinrich's senate seat this year.


In a statement, the senator said, " Two years later, many New Mexicans have yet to receive the relief and compensation they’re owed from the federal government to make a full recovery. This is simply unacceptable."



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