Cerro Pelado fire Saturday (May 7) update: Red Flag conditions predicted at least through Monday, 6 more Hotshot teams join fire crews

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 7, 2022

Six more interagency Hotshot teams have joined the crews responding to the Cerro Pelado fire in the Jemez Mountains, with four deployed to the northeast side of the fire line, as officials prepare for several days of red flag conditions (high wind, low humidity).

Cerro Pelado continues to burn about 5 miles from Laboratory property and 10 miles from the townsite. The wildfire is now measured at 34,671 acres and continues to burn brush and fallen trees on the ground, although crews are ready if changes occur due to the predicted winds.

Work to reinforce Forest Road 289 continues in the northeast section of the fire, with crews spreading fire retardant, widening the roadway and removing underbrush to assist in the effort to make that area more difficult for fire to cross (see map here). In addition, airborne fire-retardant and water drops will likely continue today until winds force the planes and helicopters to remain grounded. Elsewhere, LAFD crews are coordinating with the Bandelier National Monument staff to assist in the event that fire reaches the park.

In an effort to offer additional water availability, the snow-making pond at Pajarito Mountain, the Los Alamos ski hill, is being filled by multiple agencies including Los Alamos Fire Department tender trucks. Once an adequate supply of water is in place, the helicopters will be able to dip water from there for swift application to the fire lines.

Also today, the Laboratory and Los Alamos County have entered Stage 3 fire restrictions, meaning  Department of Energy-maintained and County trails are closed to all recreational use, campfires and charcoal grilling are prohibited, and other restrictions are in place, click here for more information.

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. Residents can be proactive about the potential for evacuation, reaching out to friends or family in the northern New Mexico area for potential accommodations, as hotels are already becoming filled with evacuees from other fires. For frequently asked questions related to evacuation preparation, click here. Shelter information is available here (note: the Lab and the County have no plans to evacuate at this time).

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. The Laboratory is well-prepared to prevent fires from spreading to its property. More information is available on that here.

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 on Youtube, 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 available on the County’s webpage, where individuals can pose questions and request assistance with transportation or animals in case of evacuation. The County highly recommends the public utilize these forms in order to help staff manage the high volume of requests.

Also, Los Alamos County officials 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.

The Great Basin Team 1 and community representatives will provide a Cerro Pelado fire update Monday, May 9, details to be provided soon.

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