The US Forest Service (USFS) said on Friday that it started two fires that grew into the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history. This caused the governor of the state to demand that the federal government take full responsibility for the disaster.
The Calf Canyon Fire was started by a “burn pile” of branches that the Forest Service assumed was extinguished but restarted on April 19, according to a statement from the Santa Fe National Forest.
According to previous reports, on April 22, the fire merged with the Hermits Peak Fire, which was started by the USFS with a controlled burn that got out of control on April 6, according to previous reports.
Hundreds of homes have been destroyed by the combined fires, which have burned over 312,320 acres (126,319 hectares) of mountain forests and valleys, an area almost the size of Greater London.
In a statement, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “The grief and suffering of New Mexicans caused by the actions of the United States Forest Service—an institution that is supposed to be a custodian of our lands—is unimaginable.”
Lujan Grisham says that the USFS investigation is a step toward the federal government taking full responsibility for the fire’s damage, which cost the state millions of dollars and forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes.
In a statement, SFNF Supervisor Debbie Cress said, “The Santa Fe National Forest is 100 percent focused on fighting these fires.”
The fire, which has burned for more than 40 miles (64 kilometers) up the Sangre de Cristo mountains, has damaged watersheds and forests that have been used by Indo-Hispano farming villages and Native American tribes for millennia.