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President approves major disaster declaration for southeastern NM wildfires

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President approves major disaster declaration for southeastern NM wildfires

Jun 20, 2024 | 4:51 pm ET
By Austin Fisher
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President approves major disaster declaration for southeastern NM wildfires
Description
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks with a child evacuated from the South Fork and Salt fires at a shelter at the New Mexico Military Institute on Wednesday evening, June 19, 2024 (Photo by Leah Romero / Source NM).

President Joe Biden approved Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request for an expedited Major Disaster Declaration in response to the South Fork and Salt fires, a White House official said Thursday.

The declaration unlocks further federal support and assistance for impacted communities from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the official said just after 2 p.m.

At the president’s direction, federal firefighters and equipment from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs were surged to help the state of New Mexico and the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the official said.

“The President’s message to those affected by the fires is that his Administration will be there for them every step of the way, for as long as it takes,” the official said.

On Wednesday, Lujan Grisham had asked the federal government for help with housing, transitional shelter, crisis counseling and case management for people directly impacted by the disaster.

Federal disaster aid requested for NM fires, hundreds more firefighters en route

New Mexico’s request also sought more federal money for the state, local and tribal government’s efforts since the fires started on Monday.

The U.S. Forest Service has assumed operational command over the fire, to ensure full coordination of all firefighting assets, the official said.

FEMA approved two Fire Management Assistance Grants earlier this week to help the more than 800 federal personnel helping fight the fires.

Also on Thursday afternoon, Lujan Grisham’s office launched a dashboard for updates on the South Fork and Salt fires.