NEW MEXICO - President Joe Biden will be traveling to New Mexico this week in the wake of multiple record-breaking wildfires scorching hundreds of thousands of acres of the state's forest land this year.
Biden will meet with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, first responders and emergency personnel on Saturday at the New Mexico State Emergency Operation Center in Santa Fe.
Biden is making the visit following the Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles from Wednesday to Friday.
New Mexico is battling two of the largest wildfires in its history - the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire in the Santa Fe National Forest and the Black Fire in the Gila National Forest. They are burning over 605,000 acres collectively and are the largest and third-largest wildfires in the recorded history of the state.
The Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire started out as two separate fires and merged in mid-May. The Hermits Peak Fire started as the Las Dispensas prescribed burn in the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District. Strong winds caused the fire to jump containment lines and then grew exponentially. The Calf Canyon Fire was traced back to a pile burn holdover from January. The collective fire is still showing moderate fire behavior, though containment has increased to 65%.
Lujan Grisham has been critical of the federal government, calling on the Biden administration to take responsibility for initiating a natural disaster that has destroyed at least 330 homes and left a financial toll in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Biden administration announced in January a $50 billion plan to stave off catastrophic wildfires that would more than double the use of planned fires and logging to reduce trees and other vegetation that serve as tinder in the most at-risk areas. Prescribed burns often are used in wildland areas that are too vast to thin by hand or machine.
The Black Fire started in mid-May due to human causes, though the specifics are still under investigation. When this wildfire started, the northern New Mexico fire was already reaching historic acreage. However, the Black Fire, in a mostly uninhabited part of the Gila National Forest, grew at an even faster rate than the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire.
By the time Biden visits, the Black Fire will likely be the second largest in state's history. Though its growth has slowed, it's possible the Black Fire will have burned more acreage than its northern New Mexico counterpart. As of Monday, 49% of the Black Fire's perimeter was contained.
Growth has slowed some, but it is still possible this fire will outgrow its northern New Mexico counterpart. Between the two, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced due to fire danger and smoke. Numerous homes have also been lost in the northern portion of the state - homes that have never been threatened by seasonal wildfires before.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Joe Biden will travel to New Mexico amid historic wildfire season