Joe Biden says the federal government will pay for the full cost of fighting wildfires in New Mexico, as he recognised the role the US Forest Service played in starting the blazes.
The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire has now scorched more than 300,000 acres and is the largest wildfire ever to burn in the state, while the Black Fire, which is also still burning, has charred more than 298,000 acres, for the second-largest fire ever in New Mexico.
“I think we have a responsibility as a government to deal with the communities who are put in such jeopardy. And today I am announcing that the federal government is covering 100 per cent of the cost,” the president said on a trip to Santa Fe on Saturday.
Forest Service investigators found that a holdover fire from January caused the Calf Canyon Fire, and that the Hermits Peak Fire was caused by spot fires from prescribed burns.
Mr Biden said that the Forest Service had paused prescribed burns and is conducting a 90-day review, which will be made public.
“99.8 per cent go as planned, but this time, tragically, it did not,” admitted the president.
The Forest Service says that it uses prescribed burns to manage vegetation, remove fuels near residential communities, and control the spread of pests and disease, among other things.
The federal government was previously responsible for 75 per cent of the firefighting response costs, but Mr Biden says he will waive the state paying the other 25 per cent of it.