April 6, 2022 was a windy day in the Las Dispensas area of the Santa Fe National Forest. But the U.S. National Forest Service moved forward anyway with its plan to set a prescribed burn for the area. The inevitable results were that the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Forest burned over 160,000 acres of forest lands, residential homes, and commercial properties. Experts familiar with sound forest management practices and proper procedures for conducting prescribed burns were sharply critical of the Forest Service’s decision to carry out a burn on that day:

“It’s clear that it was an extremely risky time to do that, given that the fuels are so dry this year, given the way the winter was,” said Tom Ribe, author of “Inferno by Committee: A history of the Cerro Grande Fire.”

Following the filing of numerous physical taking claims in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., including lawsuits brought by Marzulla Law, LLC, seeking just compensation for the Forest Service’s destruction of private property, Congress has stepped in with legislation signed into law of September 30, 2022—The Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act. The legislation establishes the Forest Service’s liability for the losses, and appropriates an initial fund of $2.5 billion (to be increased if necessary) to cover losses incurred by affected landowners.

Congress has charged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with administering the claims process. Under interim regulations published on November 14, 2022, FEMA has outlined a detailed process for filing claims and submitting proof of those claims. The expectation is that claims submitted to FEMA will be paid within 120 days of completing the claim package.

For further information about this program, how to submit a claim, and how to provide proof of losses for a complete recovery allowed under the program, please contact Marzulla Law, LLC.