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US Government Starts New Mexico Wildfire, Tells Residents To Help Pay For Damages

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The U.S. government started the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s recorded history this April, but is now asking victims to share in the recovery costs, according to Reuters.

U.S. Forest Service (USFS) officials lost control of two controlled burns in April, destroying 341,000 acres and 432 homes in northeastern New Mexico, according to MSN. President Joe Biden claimed that the federal government would cover “100% of the cost” of the disaster, but the disaster declaration ultimately only covered the cost of debris removal and emergency protective measures, leaving many victims stuck with programs that require buy-in to rebuild their houses and other necessary infrastructure, according to Reuters.

Examples of these programs include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service and the USDA’s Emergency Forest Restoration Program, which require a 25% contribution from the affected landowner, a prohibitively expensive cost for many of the low-income farmers and ranchers in the area, Reuters reports.

Dan Encianis, a rancher from Tierra Monte, just 35 miles northeast of Santa Fe, was originally told by the USDA that he would see “little to no cost” for support to fix the well on his property before being asked to foot 25% of the bill, according to Reuters. Encianias was also told his application would not be processed until September, and work wouldn’t begin for six to 12 months after that.

Encianis, who lost a five-bedroom home, farm machinery, cars and eight acres of property, was given the maximum payout of $37,000 dollars, according to Reuters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has paid out $4.2 million to 1,164 victims, for an average payout of $3,600.

Encianis now lives in a trailer on his burnt-down property with his wife, three teenage children and over a dozen animals including cats, dogs and cows, Reuters reports.

“Why the hell am I going to pay anything when I didn’t cause this damn fire?” Encinias told Reuters. Encianis rebuilt the well himself, according to Reuters.

“The federal government burns your house down so they are responsible in my mind to pay 100% of the cost of rebuilding,” said Democratic Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez of New Mexico, who represents some of the affected victims, according to Reuters. Fernandez has sponsored legislation, which has passed the House, to eliminate the cost-sharing programs for victims of the USFS wildfire, Reuters reports.

The USDA, USFS and FEMA did not immediately respond to requests for comment by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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