▶ Watch Video: Historic wildfire burns in New Mexico

The federal government is responsible for igniting the largest wildfire in New Mexico history. So when President Joe Biden arrives there this afternoon, he’ll face this question: will the federal government also be responsible for paying the full cost of the damage?

During his visit, which will last about five hours today, Biden is scheduled to receive a wildfire briefing from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in addition to other state and local officials, but there are no plans to survey damaged areas. 

The state’s largest newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, put it bluntly in an editorial, saying “Welcome to N.M., Mr. President; we sure need your help.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Forest Service conducted prescribed burns in two rugged areas east of Santa Fe, intending to mitigate the risk of wildfire. But those efforts backfired.  

Driven by wind and drought conditions, the fires spread, eventually merging into the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fire, which has charred nearly 500 square miles since April. It has forced 18,000 evacuations, and claimed more than 300 hundred homes in some of the poorest areas of the state.

Biden issued a major disaster declaration in early May for five counties impacted by wildfires, and just this week, expanded eligibility for federal relief in three of those counties. The funds will cover 75% of the recovery costs, but the state’s elected officials say that is not enough.

New Mexico’s congressional delegation wrote a letter to the president this week that cited the “severity and life and death nature of this crisis” and urged Biden “to act without delay and approve the State of New Mexico’s request for 100 percent coverage of federal assistance.”

The state is also battling several other major wildfires.

There are about 4,000 wildfire personnel on the ground fighting these fires and working to protect residents and their property, a White House official told CBS News.  In addition, the Small Business Administration has disaster recovery specialists and public information officers in the field, embedded with FEMA at the Disaster Recovery Centers and Business Recovery Center in Lincoln County, to work with individuals, families, and businesses to apply for low-interest disaster loans that will supplement what federal assistance and insurance do not cover, the official said. The SBA has already awarded nearly $2.6 million in disaster loans. 

Gov. Grisham toured damaged areas this week and said she is continuing to “work to secure a commitment from the federal government” to waive the state’s 25% cost burden.

“Given the federal government’s role in starting these fires, it’s crucial that it does everything possible to help New Mexicans recover,” Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Lujan said in a statement to the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper.