Cerro Pelado fire Thursday (May 5) update: Cerro Pelado fire still 10 miles from Los Alamos townsite; favorable weather conditions continue for firefighting efforts but expect smoke in Los Alamos area

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 5, 2022

The Cerro Pelado fire in the Jemez Mountains is currently 29,368 acres, approximately 5 miles from Los Alamos National Laboratory’s southwestern corner and 10 miles from Los Alamos townsite (see map here). Expected calmer weather for the next two days will allow fire crews to drop water and fire retardant and continue building fire breaks and other mitigation efforts to prevent the fire’s spread, though Los Alamos area residents should expect to experience periods of smoke.

“Since the beginning of this fire, every other day or so we’ve had high winds that have made this fire tough to contend with,” Los Alamos Fire Chief Troy Hughes said. “But it looks like we’re going to get a few days in a row of favorable firefighting conditions, which will be a big help.”

Because of these favorable conditions, a controlled burn is planned along Alamo trail (not Alamo Canyon) near Graduation Flats off of FR 289 (see this map). “This is going to give the Laboratory and the County more protection by widening the defensive space between us and the fire,” said Rich Nieto, the Laboratory’s Wildland Fire manager. “Residents should expect to see a lot of smoke, but it’s not a cause for concern.”  However, residents should be aware of the air quality and use caution when outdoors, particularly those with health conditions that might be exacerbated by the smoke. Air quality updates can be found on the Laboratory’s air quality monitoring website here and on AirNow

The fire continues to burn brush and fallen trees on the ground; it is not burning in the tree canopy. 

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 still 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.

Laboratory officials have 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. The shift would require Lab employees to leave at the end of the workday, while being prepared to work from home thereafter; it would not be an evacuation from the site.

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 is receiving a high volume of calls from the public with a variety of questions and requests for assistance. Forms are now available on the County’s webpage, where individuals can pose questions and request assistance with transportation or animals in case of evacuation. We highly recommend the public utilize these forms in order to help County staff manage the high volume of requests.

Also, officials with Los Alamos County request that individuals with questions not contact emergency responders directly, as they are extremely busy fighting the fire. A form is available on the County’s webpage where questions can be submitted.

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: