FEMA director resigns after fire fund failure

Longtime federal agency official Angela Gladwell has “overseen” the $4 billion compensation fund that was supposed to pay victims of a disastrous 2022 New Mexico wildfire accidentally started by the Forest Service. Her resignation follows resounding criticism of FEMA’s handling of payments that were funded and due residents for damages caused by the Hermit’s Peak / Calf Canyon Fire, which destroyed over 400 homes and racked up literally billions of dollars in suppression costs and damages.

Angela Gladwell’s actually being “reassigned,” because the Federal Emergency Management Agency is “restructuring” its disaster response in New Mexico — in part because of loud and long criticism of its handling of disaster aid and damage payments — which Source New Mexico and ProPublica have followed for the past year.

A year after the fire, the FEMA claims office had paid less than 1 percent of its total funding allocated.

In a news release announcing Gladwell’s departure, Deborah Martinez with the claims office said she “successfully built a compensation program from the ground, assembling a team of locally hired staff with knowledge of New Mexico and the communities affected by the wildfires.” Martinez said Gladwell will now “transition to a new role” as FEMA consolidates recovery programs in the state. She would not, however, answer questions about what that “consolidation” might entail.