New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is seen during a meeting with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House on February 12, 2021. Grisham said that federal aid is needed in her state to help recover from the nation's largest wildfire. File Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo
May 5 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration for New Mexico due to a wildfire that's been burning for weeks in the northern part of the state.
Fire officials say the The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire has now charred more than 160,000 acres -- but it's just 20% contained.
The blaze began about a month ago and is the result of two wildfires merging into one, hence the dual name.
Biden approved the federal disaster declaration on Wednesday, which makes federal funds available for thousands of people affected in New Mexico's Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, San Miguel and Valencia counties.
The White House said the assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses. It also includes other programs to help people and businesses recover.
"New Mexicans cannot wait for these fires to be extinguished to receive relief," New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. "That's why I expedited the state's request for emergency aid for individuals, and I'm grateful to President Biden for recognizing the urgency of the situation in our state."
Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-N.M., said the federal declaration was needed to help New Mexico residents deal with urgent disaster issues.
"They are communities that are centuries old, they are communities that might not be rich in cash and income, but they are incredibly rich in culture and heritage," Fernandez said, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
"They are lands that have been taken care of for centuries and homes that have been taken care of for centuries and are being destroyed."
The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire is the largest presently burning in the United States.