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New Mexico declares a state of emergency for drinking water

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency in the city of Las Vegas in northeastern New Mexico on Friday after the area’s drinking water supply was threatened by damage from the uncontrollable prescribed burning.

While the water was safe to drink, authorities warned there was only a two-month supply available for Las Vegas, a city of around 13,000.

The Gallinas River, which serves as the city’s main source of drinking water, is blanketed in ash and soot from the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak Fire, which is now nearly contained after burning more than 341,000 acres.

The fire started in early April after US Forest Service workers carried out a prescribed burn to try to thin out the dense pine needles. But the winds picked up and the burn veered into the path of another out-of-control prescribed burn, making it the largest wildfire New Mexico has ever seen.

The executive order from Gov. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, will make $2.25 million available to help local government take emergency action, help with repairs and prevent further damage. The funding will also help local authorities operate a temporary pre-treatment system, allowing the town to treat and draw water from Lake Storrie instead of the river.

“The destruction that continues to befall New Mexico communities impacted by planned U.S. Forest Service burns earlier this year is unfathomable,” the governor said in a statement. “The New Mexicans in San Miguel County have been through enough – we will continue to do all we can to support them and prevent further damage from the wildfires.”


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