Cerro Pelado Fire Friday Afternoon Update: Progress Continues, Fire 19% Contained, Caution Urged

LANL Director Thom Mason and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stand at the Back Gate area along N.M. 4 May 12, where LANL fire mitigation teams have been working hard to clear underbrush and more. Courtesy/LANL

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham visits the Emergency Operations Center May 12 with LANL leadership, including Deputy Lab Director of Operations Kelly Beierschmitt, left, and Lab Director Thom Mason, 3rd from right. Courtesy/LANL

LANL News:

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office and Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office issued the following update to the community this afternoon on the status of the Cerro Perado Fire. 

Fire crews continued to make progress Thursday night on the Cerro Pelado Fire burning in the Jemez Mountains. The fire is now 19 percent contained – including a strategic section at the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Fire officials are optimistic that well-established containment lines will prevent the fire from advancing farther northeast toward Laboratory property and the Los Alamos townsite.

The fire has burned 45,394 acres, a small growth overnight primarily due to Hotshot crews’ preventive work within the perimeter of the fire.

‘Follow stage 3 fire restrictions … We need you to be vigilant’

Winds are expected to remain relatively calm for the next couple of days. Still, humidity is at record lows, and no rain is forecasted. Fire and emergency management officials urged residents and Lab employees to be on alert and extremely careful to prevent another fire from starting.

“Crews have made very good progress on this fire, and should continue to, with the winds calming down for a few days. Our main concern right now is a new start,” said Jeff Dare, the Lab’s emergency management division leader. “We need everyone at the Lab and in the community to be very careful and follow stage 3 fire restrictions. Don’t get lackadaisical – we need you to be vigilant.”

Los Alamos residents should report any violations of the stage 3 fire restrictions to the Los Alamos Consolidated Dispatch Center (CDC) at 505.662.8222 or in the event of an emergency dial 9-1-1. This will ensure any incident is properly investigated or addressed by LAFD or LAPD.

Violations of stage 3 restrictions on Lab property will be cause for disciplinary action. Employees should report irresponsible or dangerous fire behavior – such as throwing lit cigarettes onto the ground – to 505. 667.2400.

Read more about Los Alamos County stage 3 fire restrictions.

See the most recent fire map.

Community and Lab remain in ‘set,’ schools return to normal

The Lab and Los Alamos County remain the “set” stage of ready, set, go meaning employees and residents should prepare plans in case evacuation is ordered. Evacuation is not necessary at this time.

Los Alamos Public Schools announced Thursday that schools will re-open Monday, May 16. School officials will continue to coordinate with the fire team, Los Alamos County, the Lab, and others, and will adjust the school schedule if the fire behavior changes. 

Important: The Laboratory, including Triad and N3B, will remain on Maximum Telework.

On Thursday evening, the Great Basin Team 1 and community representatives briefed the Los Alamos community about the fire and decisions regarding “ready, set, go”. Video of the meeting and more resources are available on the U.S. Forest Service Cerro Pelado Fire Facebook page.

Firefighters continue focus on Alamo Canyon

More than 1,000 people, including Lab operations employees and Los Alamos County emergency and fire personnel, are now supporting firefighting operations. Crews fighting the fire near Los Alamos and the Laboratory continue to work to remove undergrowth and other fire fuels from National Forest Road 287 to American Springs to prevent the fire from moving toward the Lab.

At the same time, Lab operations employees are continuing their work to remove fuels near power lines, key facilities and other strategic areas. Lab officials say the Lab is better prepared than it has been in years to protect the site from fire.

No current danger for White Rock

IF the County were to move to the “go” phase, officials anticipate at this time that all neighborhoods in Los Alamos County except for White Rock would need to evacuate. The White Rock area does not appear to be in the path of the fire, and it would remain in the “set” phase. White Rock residents should still be prepared in case circumstances change.

Additional resources

Residents can learn about evacuation status via the Laboratory’s web page, the Los Alamos County Cerro Pelado Fire Updates page and the community’s CodeRED alert system. Sign up for Los Alamos County’s CodeRED emergency alerts by texting LOSALAMOS to 99411. Also, a step-by-step guide to signing up for CodeRED can be watched on YouTube

More information about packing a “go bag” and other information about evacuations is available on this Federal Emergency Management Agency website. Also: view shelter information. (Note: there is no evacuation order at this time from either the County or the Laboratory.) 

Forms are available on the County’s webpage, where individuals can pose questions and request assistance with transportation or animals in case of evacuation.

A form is also available on the County’s webpage where questions can be submitted about county operations as it relates to the fire. For fire specific questions, please contact the Great Basin Team 1 by phone at 505.312.4593, 303.918.4004 or email at 2022.CerroPelado@firenet.gov. Please do not contact emergency responders directly.

Air quality updates can be found on the Laboratory’s air quality monitoring website and on AirNow

Be sure to rely on official sources for the latest information on the Cerro Pelado Fire, such as:

Fire crews from across New Mexico, the Southwest and California have worked around the clock to limit the fire’s spread. Courtesy/LANL

Fire crews from across New Mexico, the Southwest and California have worked around the clock to limit the fire’s spread. Courtesy/LANL

Fire crews from across New Mexico, the Southwest and California have worked around the clock to limit the fire’s spread. Courtesy/LANL

Fire crews from across New Mexico, the Southwest and California have worked around the clock to limit the fire’s spread. Courtesy/LANL

Building on lessons learned from the Las Conchas Fire, the Laboratory’s Wildland Fire team has actively managed the forest around Lab property for many years. Fuel loads at the Lab have been reduced by approximately 3,500 tons in the last 3.5 years. Fuel reductions activities in Los Alamos Canyon and several parts of Lab property are ongoing. Courtesy/LANL

The 2011 Las Conchas Fire helped inform wildfire mitigation strategies at the Laboratory. The robust safety and security measures implemented in the ensuing years have prepared the Lab in the event of another large-scale wildfire in the surrounding area. Courtesy/LANL


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