The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) started two blazes that turned into New Mexico's most destructive wildfire ever, the agency stated on Friday. This prompted the governor of New Mexico to demand full federal responsibility for the catastrophe.
Forest Service investigators concluded that the Calf Canyon Fire was caused a "burn pile” of branches. The agency believed it was over, but the fire was rekindled on April 19, Santa Fe National Forest stated in a statement.
The blaze that erupted on April 22 was merged with the Hermits Peak Fire which the USFS began with a controlled burning. It went out of control on April 6, according to the agency.
The combined fire has destroyed hundreds of homes and scorched 312,320 acres (126,319 ha) of mountain forests.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico Governor, stated in a statement that the U.S. Forest Service's actions caused pain and suffering for New Mexicans. The agency is supposed to be a steward on our lands.
Lujan Grisham stated that the USFS investigation was an important step toward the federal government accepting full responsibility for the loss of property, displacements of tens or thousands of residents and the millions of dollars in state spending that were caused by the fire.
Debbie Cress, SFNF Supervisor, stated in the statement that "The Santa Fe National Forest has 100 percent focus on suppressing these flames."
The fire blazed a path of more than 40 miles (64 km) up the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, destroying watersheds and forests that were used for centuries by Indo Hispano farming villages as well as Native American communities.