Cerro Pelado fire Wednesday (May 4) update: Mitigation efforts continue to fight Cerro Pelado fire; more favorable conditions expected over next few days

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office update community on status of fire currently burning in Jemez Mountains

May 4, 2022

The Cerro Pelado fire in the Jemez Mountains is currently 26,927 acres, 5.16 miles from Los Alamos National Laboratory property and 10 miles from Los Alamos townsite (see map here). Over 560 personnel are working the fire. Proactive efforts to control the fire by reducing fuels, creating fire breaks and air dropping retardant have helped limit the fire’s growth.

The Laboratory continues to do aggressive fire mitigation work between Laboratory property and the northeast section of the fire. Fire crews are working to widen Dome Road (Forest Service Road 289 on this map), clear out underbrush, remove downed limbs and other fuels and treat the area with fire retardant.

“The good news is that this fire is behaving more like a controlled burn,” said Rich Nieto, the Laboratory’s Wildland Fire manager. “It’s not burning in the tree canopy like the Calf and Hermit’s Peak fires. It’s burning the brush and fallen trees on the ground. There’s a lot of smoke, but the smoke can be misleading and make things appear worse than they are. We’re still taking this fire very seriously because conditions can always change, but currently, we feel confident that our mitigation measures will protect Laboratory property and the County.”

Despite state-wide red flag warnings, which mean low humidity and high winds, the winds in the location of the fire are forecasted to average 12 mph, with 25 mph gusts, and higher humidity. “Wind of any speed is always a concern,” said Nieto, “but the forecasted winds are low enough that firefighting aircraft can still fly, which is extremely helpful. Overall, we’re looking at more favorable firefighting conditions for the next few days.”

The Laboratory, Los Alamos County, NNSA, U.S. Forest Service and other agencies responding to the fire are closely coordinating. The Lab and Los Alamos County are in the “ready” phase of “ready, set, go,” meaning there is no emergency but residents and employees should begin creating a plan in case they need to leave the area.

Laboratory managers, in coordination with Los Alamos County, NNSA and other agencies, have established points at which to make decisions about whether to move to the “set” phase, based on the fire’s progression. Currently, there are no plans to do so.

Yesterday, Laboratory officials announced that if the fire moves closer to Laboratory property, all employees who can telework could be shifted to Maximum Telework status as part of an effort to reduce the number of employees who might have to evacuate the site if the fire were to threaten Lab property or the townsite.

Lab leaders will determine whether Maximum Telework is necessary and decisions about evacuating remaining employees and the townsite will be made in conjunction with Los Alamos County if the fire continues to move closer to the Laboratory and reaches Alamo Canyon (see map here). Residents can learn about this 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 that can be watched here. More information about packing a “go bag” and other information about evacuations is available on this Federal Emergency Management Agency website.

Los Alamos County and the Laboratory remain in Stage 2 fire restrictions, which prohibits any outdoor burning and restricts some work activities.

The Laboratory, Los Alamos County and the NNSA Field Office continue to monitor the fire as a unified response and will provide daily updates as long as they are necessary. Emergency operations managers from Los Alamos and Sandoval counties are drawing on the technical expertise of the Laboratory and NNSA, as well as that of the Los Alamos County Fire Department.

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

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