Seizing a training opportunity, the Los Alamos County Fire Department trained cadets to repel over the edge of White Rock Canyon at Overlook Park Wednesday to collect trash dumped into the canyon illegally. Photo by Greg Kendall/

Los Alamos Fire cadets prepare climbing gear to repel into White Rock Canyon Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Gordon/


Los Alamos Daily Post

While on a recent trek around White Rock, Los Alamos County Administrator Harry Burgess spotted a large amount of trash and debris dumped illegally into White Rock Canyon.

Burgess is an avid hiker and he came up with an idea that turned the offensive eyesore into a valuable training opportunity for members of the Los Alamos County Fire Department.

“I was out hiking by White Rock Canyon at Overlook Park and I looked down and saw a lot of trash that looked like it came from the 1960s,” Burgess told the Los Alamos Daily Post this morning. “I thought this would be a great training exercise for the fire department to use to practice rescue techniques. I talked it over with Fire Chief Troy Hughes and he thought it was a great idea … so we used the trash as a rescue victim.”

Los Alamos County Fire Capt. Jeff Wetteland was at Overlook Park for Wednesday’s trash rescue training session.

“Harry Burgess hikes here often and he wanted to do something about the garbage in the canyon,” Wetteland said. “This exercise also provided training in rescue techniques for our new fire cadets.”

These cadets who got in on the unique training opportunity are set to graduate from the Los Alamos Fire Academy at 1 p.m., Friday at the White Rock Baptist Church.

The cadets were trained Wednesday to repel down the cliff face into the canyon to retrieve the trash illegally tossed there over the years.

This training will aid the fire cadets in the future to rescue hikers who may become injured or disoriented and unable to climb out of the canyon on their own.

The fine for illegally dumping trash in Los Alamos County is $500 per incident.

Editor’s note: Carol A. Clark and Greg Kendall contributed to this story.

A cadet repels into the canyon. Photo by Greg Kendall/

Cadets lower a blue trash container into the canyon during Wednesday’s training exercise. Photo by Greg Kendall/

Fire Capt. Jeff Wetteland calls down directions to cadets in the canyon below. Photo by Greg Kendall/

Fire cadets lower a garbage bin down the canyon wall using a large winch normally used to hoist injured persons. Photo by Greg Kendall/

A mystery is uncovered as a cadet finds a wallet containing a valid drivers license nestled amongst the debris in White Rock Canyon Wednesday. Photo by Greg Kendall/

An overwhelming amount of trash has been dumped illegally into what is considered one of the most beautiful canyons in Northern New Mexico. Photo by Greg Kendall/

TV sets, furniture, yard work supplies, car parts and large appliances where among the illegally dumped items that cadets attempted to haul out of the canyon Wednesday. Photo by Greg Kendall/

Cadets collect trash scattered in the canyon overlooking the shore of the Rio Grande River. Photo by Greg Kendall/

Trash is hauled up from the bottom of White Rock Canyon. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/