051100

The "Controlled Burn" of Los Alamos

The Park Service started a "controlled burn" to burn off underbrush in Bandolier National Monument when "conditions were ideal." Yep! That's what they said. Extremely hot weather, extremely dry conditions, no measurable atmospheric water vapor, and extremely high winds. That's "Ideal"?

At 1:36 p.m., Gracia Coffin (Don Gettemy's wife) telephoned and said they had just announced on the radio that the whole town of Los Alamos would have to be evacuated, all 11,500 people. The fire had gotten into Los Alamos canyon, which is very deep, has extremely steep sides, and is difficult for fire crews to get into at all (and certainly not safely). The canyon is heavily wooded with tall pine trees and the winds in the canyon are very high.

At 2:00 p.m., the radio station began continuous coverage of the Los Alamos fire. They said the winds were so high and erratic that the slurry helicopters had been grounded and the fire fighters had been told to get out of the way. The fire was spot jumping up to 1/4 mile ahead of the main fire. It is too dangerous to even fight the fire now. At 2:15, a nurse at Espanola Hospital telephoned the radio station and said the smoke from the fire was very thick in Espanola. A huge plume of smoke was coming over the mountain and was quite visible from my place.

A man from Abiquiu said he could see the flames. At 2:30, they broadcast an actual Civil Emergency Alert. At 2:43, a man in Espanola said ash was falling in Espanola. At 4:15, they reported that homes in Los Alamos were burning. By 5:00 p.m., it was reported that everyone in Los Alamos had been evacuated; some to White Rock and some to Cities of Gold Casino in Pojoaque.

At 7:30 p.m., they reported that homes were exploding into flames with regularity. At 8:00 p.m., a man called in an unconfirmed report that the fire was about to cut off the road 4 or 5 miles from Espanola. A woman in White Rock (10 miles from Los Alamos) telephoned in, concerned that White Rock might have to be evacuated.

11th: At 5:00 a.m., it was reported that at least 100 homes in Los Alamos had been burned. At 1:00 a.m., they began to evacuate White Rock because of heavy smoke. That's another 7,000 people. Homes in the western area of Espanola had been evacuated because the fire was headed that way. The fire was reported to be six to eight miles from Espanola.

At 6:00 a.m., the fire had burned 18,000 acres. People who had been evacuated from the west area of Espanola were allowed to return home. I can smell smoke, but it's not a strong odor. wind gusts have already begun. I didn't expect that until this afternoon.