HERMIT'S PEAK FIRE LAWYERS

INSURANCE & CONTRACT CLAIMS

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In certain areas of the country, wildfires are a common risk due to the dry, arid climate. They can happen from natural causes, but they can just as easily result from human activity and even controlled burns. The recent Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires have combined to form the largest wildfire in New Mexico state history. The highly destructive blaze began as a prescribed fire, but it quickly grew out of control because of unexpected erratic winds. Those who have suffered injuries or damages from the Hermit’s Peak fire or the Calf Canyon fire may be entitled to compensation.

At Reich & Binstock, our personal injury attorneys have extensive experience handling large, complex cases. We are committed to representing and fighting for the rights and compensation of local communities affected by these devastating fires. If you suffered injuries or damages because of the Hermits Peak fires and Calf Canyon fires, our fire litigation attorneys are here for you. To schedule your free consultation with us, please call our office at 713-622-7271 today.

Hermit’s Peak and Calf Canyon Fire Lawsuits

In April of 2022, the United States Forest Service began a prescribed burn as a preventative measure, despite the forecasted weather conditions of high winds. Because of their failure to account for so many crucial factors, the destructive wildfire quickly burned out of control. It became the largest wildfire disaster in New Mexico history, destroying hundreds of homes and hundreds of thousands of acres.

For nearly three months, this prescribed fire was not contained. Many people suffered injuries, loss of life, significant property damage, and even total property loss from these fires. Regardless of whether you rent or own your home, you shouldn’t be saddled with the financial damages caused by a negligent federal government entity. Our attorneys are here to help you seek full and fair compensation for what the fire destroyed.

What Is a Prescribed Burn?

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As we stated previously, the Hermits Peak fire and Calf Canyon fire began as a prescribed burn. Prescribed burns are those which are strategically ignited by a team of fire experts under the right weather conditions. Certain national forest system lands actually depend on fires for a healthy ecosystem. Below, we outline the many benefits of prescribed burns, if conducted properly.

  • Reduces fuels and decreases the likelihood of dangerous wildfires
  • Removing certain species that could threaten an ecosystem
  • Reducing the spread of diseases and pests
  • Recycling certain nutrients back into the soil
  • Promoting tree growth, plant growth, and wildflower growth
  • Improving the habitat for certain species
  • Providing foraging opportunities for game

Prescribed burns require something called a burn plan, which is written up by a specialist. The specialist will examine the terrain and weather conditions in order to develop a plan to achieve the safest possible burn. These plans take many factors into consideration, including humidity levels, temperature, vegetation moisture, and much more. Before a fire expert can begin burning on a particular day, they will need to compare the current conditions of the area to the optimal conditions outlined in the burn plan.

How Many Acres Have Burned in the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire?

As of June 30th, 2022, the Hermits Peak fire and Calf Canyon fire had burned through 341,735 acres of land in the Pecos Wilderness. Additionally, the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fire destroyed more than 600 homes in Las Vegas and other nearby communities. Public and private landowners have suffered intense property damage and property losses. Many individuals have already filed personal injury claims related to the incidents.

Is the Hermit’s Peak Fire Contained?

As of August 21st, 2022, the fires have been declared 100% contained. However, they burned for approximately five months from the beginning of the fire to its containment. These fires far exceeded the defined burn project boundary, largely due to the US Forest Service’s failure to account for certain conditions.

How Did the Hermit’s Peak Fire Start?

The incident began as a controlled burn by the US Forest Service on April 6th, 2022. Multiple spot fires merged as the original fires escaped their boundaries and spread far beyond their intended locations. Initially, the Forest Service intentionally started the fire as a controlled burn that was intended to benefit the ecosystem. Unfortunately, the fire quickly raged out of control, burning more than 300,000 acres of land and over 600 homes in the area.

What Caused the Hermits Peak Fire?

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As questions poured in over the decision to begin the burn, the Forest Service initially declined to disclose their burn plan or any other related documents. In June of 2022, they released their internal review of the cause of the incident. According to the review, the agency used outdated models and failed to take certain crucial elements into consideration when they decided to begin the burn.

For example, the agency ignored the recent prolonged drought, the steep, rugged terrain of the area, and the high winds at the time. Negligence from a government agency, especially one with so much responsibility, is never acceptable. The massive blaze, which destroyed no less than 635 homes throughout San Miguel, Mora, and Taos Counties, was the largest in the history of New Mexico. It was even larger than the Cerro Grande fire.

Who Is Responsible for the Hermit’s Peak Fire?

The Forest Service has defended its prescribed burn as a necessary action to protect the Santa Fe National Forest. However, other fire experts have weighed in on the incident, stating that conducting the burn was an unnecessarily risky move. New Mexico fire experts have also criticized the decision to conduct the burn in April.

The decision to ignite the fire was, at best, a risky one. If you have suffered injuries, property damage, or property loss from the fire, you have the right to pursue compensation for your losses. Speak with an experienced fire litigation attorney to learn more about how you can file a claim.

What Is the Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act?

On September 30th of 2022, President Biden signed the Hermits Peak Fire Assistance Act into law, which provided $2.5 billion in funding to compensate New Mexico residents and Tribal Nations for the fire’s devastation. These funds aim to cover personal injuries, financial losses, business losses, and losses of personal property. Although the Act cannot undo the damage, it can help to jumpstart the recovery process for New Mexico and Tribal residents.

Do I Need an Attorney for Fire Damage?

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Due to the nature of these cases, we strongly recommend working with an experienced lawyer for your claim. Without the knowledge and training of an attorney, it can be difficult to craft a strong case on your own. We will help you gather all necessary evidence to support your claim before you file. This will give you a better chance at a favorable outcome. You’ll also have our years of litigation experience on your side. Therefore, if your claim is denied, we have the ability to litigate on your behalf in court.

We will also help you determine the value of your claim. This is important, as it allows you to have a clear understanding of what a fair settlement would look like. We will never settle for lowball settlement offers, as this doesn’t help your situation. Instead, we’ll shoot for full and fair compensation, going to trial on your behalf if necessary.

How to Seek Compensation for Fire Damage

If you were affected by the wildfire in New Mexico, you may be eligible for compensation for your monetary losses. Many homeowners will turn to their homeowners’ insurance policy for answers, only to realize that their policy won’t completely cover their losses. You may have even suffered burn injuries from the incident, which could leave you with expensive medical bills.

First, we recommend contacting a fire damage lawyer as soon as possible. This will ensure that you receive skilled representation as early as possible in your case. Legal representation can help you avoid costly mistakes when filing a claim, and an attorney can also serve as a staunch advocate for your legal rights. Speak with a Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire lawsuit attorney to learn how you can seek compensation for the destruction of these wildfires.

Compensation from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fires

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Those affected by the fires in New Mexico may be able to recover the following types of compensation by submitting a claim or filing a lawsuit.

These are the monetary losses you have suffered from the wildfire. They are easily quantifiable, and often include the following forms of compensation.

  • Business losses
  • Property losses
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Vocational rehab
  • Smoke and fire damage
  • Electrical damage
  • Structural damage
  • Funeral and burial expenses

These are the non-monetary losses you suffered from the fire. They are much more difficult to quantify, and you will need the help of a skilled personal injury attorney to do so. Non-economic damages often include the following forms of compensation.

  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Contact a Hermit’s Peak Fire Attorney Today

The wildfires at Hermit’s Peak and Calf Canyon have been devastating for hundreds, potentially thousands of people. Victims and affected communities deserve both justice and compensation for the losses they have suffered. The fire litigation attorneys at Reich & Binstock are here to fight for your right to just compensation. If you suffered losses from this incident, our dedicated personal injury attorneys are here for you. To schedule your free case evaluation with us, please call our Houston law office today at 713-622-7271.