Some New Mexico wildfire evacuees worry about their future
MORA, N.M. (AP) — As more than 2,700 firefighters in northern New Mexico continued to battle the nation’s largest active wildfire on Sunday, many evacuees were growing concerned about their future after weeks away from home
The biggest fire in the state’s recorded history has been burning for six weeks now, and some of the hundreds forced to evacuate say their financial resources are dwindling.
Amity Maes, a 30-year-old Mora resident who said she is 8 ½ months pregnant and penniless, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that she bounced around for weeks before finding shelter at an evacuation center in Glorieta, where she believes she contracted COVID-19.
Officials at Glorieta Adventure Camps said there have been 67 coronavirus cases among evacuees, including some that required hospitalization.
After her isolation period, Maes said she was urged to leave and go to a hotel in Santa Fe where she could be closer to a hospital if she went into labor.
But the hotel didn’t have her reservation when she arrived and when she finally got a room, it was only for one night.
“They keep encouraging us to go to Albuquerque” where evacuees are being housed in hotels, Maes told the newspaper. “We don’t have gas. We don’t have no income. There’s no gas vouchers. There’s no anything. I’m on a quarter-tank of gas, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
The Glorieta retreat center has housed hundreds of people this month and hosted a dozen organizations providing services and resources to evacuees. But it is scheduled to close its shelter this week to prepare for its annual summer camps.
Staff members are trying to ensure all of the center’s guests have a place to go when the doors close, but some families are uncertain where they will land.
Heather Nordquist, who has been engaged in issues affecting northern New Mexico residents, said evacuees’ needs are not being met.
She has collected about $3,000 in donations, which she has used for food, gift and gas cards, and supplies for evacuees.
“I am so deeply discouraged that our tax dollars aren’t finding their way to these evacuees,” Nordquist told the New Mexican. “My heart breaks for the people of Mora.”
Meanwhile, the wildfire remained 40% contained around its perimeter Sunday.
A cold front that arrived Friday night has lowered temperatures, raised humidity levels and provided cloud cover that “shades the fuels so that the fire has to work harder and struggles to burn that material,” fire behavior analyst Dennis Burns. “It’s actually given us some decent conditions to go after this fire.”
At 484 square miles (1,253 square kilometers), the fire is so big it’s been split into three zones managed separately by three of the 17 largest Type I incident teams in the nation.
The merged Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fire is among five active large fires in the state and among 16 nationally, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.