My wife and I hiked the canyon below Camino Encantado (Barranca Mesa) this afternoon and noticed several slash piles below our house. This is one of the areas where Los Alamos County (LAC) has recently been doing their controlled burns.
Previously, the burns have taken place further away from the houses. Even so, the smoke has been very thick at times and problematic for those with asthma, COPD and other breathing problems. The slash piles that we saw today were directly below the houses on our street.
These piles are very close, within 100 feet or so of the houses. If these piles are burned, the smoke that will be generated will be very thick at the level of the houses.
We have voiced our concern to both the Forest Service and Los Alamos County. Several people in our neighborhood suffer from severe respiratory problems and have to breath oxygen on a daily basis. It is simply not appropriate to expose these people to large amounts of smoke if it can be avoided. Nor is it fair to recommend that these people leave town to avoid breathing the smoke during the burn periods.
I would be the first to agree that excess slash in the canyons around Los Alamos needs to be removed in order to mitigate fire danger. However, burning is only one possible solution. The piles that I saw today are right next to a dirt road that LAC routinely drives their trucks on. I suggest that instead of burning these piles, LAC could load these piles up onto their trucks and haul the material out of the canyon, or the material could be chipped in place.
Cell phone photo of a slash pile taken from deck of home in Barranca Mesa. Photo by Jon Longmire