Our first priority is the safety of our employees and the surrounding community, and we are working very closely with Los Alamos County, NNSA, the Forest Service and surrounding communities to ensure a coordinated response to the Cerro Pelado fire. Currently, the fire is not threatening Laboratory property. If that changes, the Laboratory has firefighting assets pre-positioned to assist the Los Alamos Fire Department or other agencies as needed to protect key facilities. Those assets include a U.S. Forest Service helicopter that is maintained onsite, a 20,000-gallon water dip tank, Laboratory water tankers, and heavy equipment to assist with fire lines if necessary. Los Alamos Fire Department specialized equipment is available to protect the Pajarito and West Jemez corridors. Los Alamos Fire Department will increase staffing to add roving patrols of the Laboratory perimeter if the fire approaches LANL property. The Laboratory is also conducting additional fuels mitigation work around key facilities and the site perimeter.
In case of evacuation, Laboratory facilities will be put through a standardized “safe shutdown” process to ensure safety and security of each building, according to its processes and materials on hand. Furthermore, our facilities are designed and operated to protect the materials that are inside, and radiological and other potentially hazardous materials are stored in containers that are engineered and tested to withstand extreme environments, including heat from fire.
We will bring to bear every available resource to protect our facilities and employees. The Laboratory would move to Maximum Telework well before the fire could threaten the Lab, significantly reducing the number of people who would need to evacuate from the site if that were necessary. Importantly, building on lessons learned from the Las Conchas fire, the Laboratory’s Wildland Fire team has actively managed the forest around the Lab property for many years. Steps taken to prepare for the 2022 fire season include:
- Evacuation routes have been cleared and are ready.
- Fire roads and fire breaks are inspected, maintained, and familiarization tours have been provided to LAFD personnel.
- Fuels reduction activities in Los Alamos Canyon and several parts of the Lab property are ongoing.
- Approximately 1,500 tons of fuels have been removed from the site so far this fiscal year.
- Elevated, dip, and portable tanks are inspected and ready.
- Firing site fire risk mitigation activities continue.
- Wildland Fire staff are on-call and ready to respond.