When four employees of Los Alamos National Bank lost their homes to fire this month, the New Mexico bank gave each $5,000 to help keep them on their feet.

Another bank with a branch in town, First National Bank of Santa Fe, gave its workers time off to volunteer and help neighbors who were scrambling to rebuild. "We had so many employees in the bank who wanted to help with the relief effort that it was unbelievable," said Jennifer Lind, vice president of marketing for $295 million-asset First National of Santa Fe.

Two other banks with offices in Los Alamos are helping those who have lost homes or income - which is practically everyone in the 11,000 person town, a bedroom community for Los Alamos National Laboratory. More than 400 properties were destroyed, and damage has been put at $1 billion.

Fire hit the town when a "prescribed burn" set by the National Park Service at Bandelier National Monument went out of control and spread to 50,000 surrounding acres.

Some banks in Los Alamos are offering bridge loans at no interest while residents wait for government help. Others are working with customers who are having trouble meeting loan payments because of problems created by the fire.

"We've developed a couple of special loan programs for anybody who has been affected by the fire, either by lost wages or by damage to their home," said Jim Kruger, chairman and chief executive officer of $130 million-asset Community Bank in nearby Espanola.

For First National of Santa Fe the top priority was to ensure that the employees of its Los Alamos branch were safe, Ms. Lind said. "The bank was very generous with time off, fronting money and helping out with whatever we could," she said.

The Santa Fe bank also established funds to help fire victims and support the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, which was overrun with the pets of people evacuated from Los Alamos. The bank, whose parent company is New Mexico Banquest Corp., has also shared its facilities with insurance companies and nonprofit groups that needed to set up shop for those who lost their homes.

The Los Alamos branch of San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. set up a mobile bank trailer close to the evacuation site in Pojoaque, about 20 miles from Los Alamos.

"The mobile bank officers helped [evacuees] with getting the emergency checks given by their insurance agencies," said Pamela Chavez, a Wells spokeswoman. "We also had two ATM machines, and there were no transaction charges for noncustomers."

Wells Fargo employees also helped round-the-clock in the relief effort, she said. Moreover, raised about $165,000, including $100,000 from its corporate offices, for supplies and redevelopment.

Bill Enloe, chairman and CEO of $451 million-asset Los Alamos National, said the employees of its Los Alamos branch, who were evacuated from town, continued to receive their salaries. Employees of the Santa Fe branch, who wound up with extra work to do, got double pay.

Los Alamos National, whose parent company is Trinity Capital Corp., moved operations to Santa Fe, remaining open throughout the weekends to grant interest-free and low-interest loans to evacuees.

Mr. Enloe is also one of the community members who has been speaking with the New Mexico congressional delegation about possible compensation for the government's mistake.

"We've tried to bend over backwards to be a support to our community and add some semblance of stability during this crisis," he said. "It was chaos around here during that fire. More than 60% of the community was burned, and a lot of people lost a great deal.

"It's now beginning to turn back to normal - except for the 427 families who lost their homes."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.