Cerro Pelado fire Friday (May 6) update: High-winds and dry conditions through Monday could challenge Cerro Pelado firefighting efforts; caution urged this weekend

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 6, 2022

Red-flag conditions (high winds and low humidity) are expected beginning tomorrow through Monday. That, coupled with warmer weather, could make Cerro Pelado firefighting operations more difficult. Residents are asked to remain vigilant. In addition, the Laboratory and Los Alamos County are entering Stage 3 fire restrictions beginning tomorrow, which means Department of Energy-maintained and County trails are closed to all recreational use.

Smoke continues to be heavy in areas and residents should use caution when outdoors due to poor air quality, 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

Thursday night, interagency Hotshot crews conducted a backburn west of Forest Road 289 to Graduation Flats, which will significantly help to prevent the spread of the fire on the eastern side. The fire mitigation work makes the eastern perimeter of the Cerro Pelado fire appear closer to Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos townsite on maps than it actually is (see map here). In fact, it continues to burn about 5 miles from Laboratory property and 10 miles from the townsite. The wildfire is 32,121 acres and continues to burn brush and fallen trees on the ground; it is not burning in the tree canopy. 

The backburn is reducing the fire intensity level as well as the potential for spot fires. The crews continue to hold and improve the fire line along Forest Road 289. The calm weather over the last few days has allowed crews to drop water and fire retardant and continue building fire breaks and other mitigation efforts to prevent the fire’s spread.

In addition, the Laboratory has taken actions to bolster defenses of Lab property. That, combined with several years of proactive fire mitigation work that the Lab has done on-site, means the Laboratory is well-prepared to prevent fires from spreading to its property. More information is here.

The Great Basin Team 1 and community representatives will provide a Cerro Pelado fire update tonight, May 6, at 5:30 p.m. Community members are encouraged to join in person at the Griffith Gym at Los Alamos High School or via Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/88006470074. The meeting will also stream live on the Cerro Pelado Facebook page.

The Laboratory 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. For frequently asked questions related to evacuation preparation, click here.

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.

Residents can learn about evacuation 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 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.

For May 6, 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: