The Hermits Peak fire (also known as the Calf Canyon fire) in 2022 was the biggest and most destructive wildfire in New Mexico history. From early April to late June 2022, the Hermits Peak fire scorched over 300,000 acres in San Miguel, Mora, and Taos counties in the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains area. The fire torched over 903 structures, including several hundred homes, and damaged many more. The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire was one of several wildfires that hit New Mexico in the spring of 2022.
The Hermits Peak fire started when the U.S. Forest Service attempted to do a “controlled burn” in the Santa Fe National Forest. High winds caused the controlled burn to get out of control. The U.S. Forest Service has accepted accountability for the fire and in April 2023 a new federal law called the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act was enacted to provide $2.5 billion in compensation to individuals who suffered personal or property injury during the fire.
The national mass tort lawyers at Miller & Zois are currently seeking new cases from victims of the Hermits Peak / Calf Canyon fires in New Mexico. Call us today at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation.
About the Hermits Peak Fire
In April 2022, U.S. Forest Service personnel began a controlled burn project, called the Las Dispensas prescribed burn, in the Santa Fe National Forest. Controlled burns are regularly done to prevent more severe wildfires by removing potential fuel for uncontrolled fires.
Unfortunately, shortly after the controlled fire was set high winds swept in and caused the fire to get out of control and ignite areas outside the project boundary. On April 7, 2022 the prescribed burn was declared a wildfire emergency and it was officially named the Hermits Peak Fire, after a nearby mountain of the Sangre de Cristo range called Hermit Peak. By April 19, 2022, the Hermits Peak fire was 90% contained after burning over 7,000 acres.
Two days after the Hermits Peak fire began, a separate fire ignited several miles to west, also within the Santa Fe National Forest. This new fire was named the Calf Canyon Fire and was caused by leftover burn piles from a prescribed fire project from January 2022. The Calf Canyon fire spread across 120 acres and then turned northward towards the end of April, just as the Hermits Peak fire was winding down.
On April 22, 2022, the Calf Canyon Fire merged with and into the Hermits Peak Fire. Extreme winds and exceeding dry conditions accelerated the merged fires. By the next day, the combined fires covered a footprint of approximately 42,000 acres and were showing signs of extreme fires such as crowning and long-range spotting.
Over the next week, the fire grew over 10,000 acres a day, fueled by more high winds and dry conditions. The fire was not declared 100% contained until the end of August, by which point the final footprint of the wildfire spanned approximately 45 miles north to south, and around 20 miles from west to east.
Government Accepts Responsibility for Hermits Peak Fire
The Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires were directly caused by planned burning projects carried out by the U.S. Forest Service, a branch of the federal government. During the first week of the fire, a USFS official issued a public apology for the fires and accepted the blame. Ironically, the planned burned projects that caused the Hermits Peak Fire were actually being done to prevent massive wild fires from occurring in the first place.
Compensation Fund for Victims of Hermits Peak Fire
In 2023, the federal government enacted the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act (the “HPFAA”). The HPFAA set up a $2.5 billion settlement fund to payout compensation to victims of the fire who submitted claims. The HPFAA permits anyone who suffered physical injuries or property loss during the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire to submit a claim for compensation to FEMA by filing a “Notice of Loss” form.
As of September 1, 2023, FEMA has paid out $40 million in compensation on a total of 550 accepted claims under the HPFAA. Thousands of additional claims are still waiting to be filed by victims of the fire and most of the $2.5 billion earmarked for compensation is still untouched.
Contact Miller & Zois to File a Hermits Peak Fire Claim
If you suffered property loss or physical injury during the Hermits Peak / Calf Canyon fires in New Mexico in 2022, you may be eligible to get financial compensation from the government under the Hermits Peak compensation program. The national mass tort lawyers at Miller & Zois can help you submit your claim to FEMA and ensure that you get the maximum amount of compensation that you are legally entitled to receive.
If you think you might be entitled to compensation related to the Hermits Peak or Calf Canyon fires, contact our office today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.