Cerro Pelado Fire Sunday (May 8) Update: Lab and Los Alamos County to move to ‘set’ stage on Monday as precaution; there is no emergency and no evacuation

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 9, 2022


Red flag conditions (high wind, low humidity) over the last day and a half have caused the Cerro Pelado fire in the Jemez Mountains to grow to over 37,425 acres. While small spot fires are burning slowly in a few locations, including Alamo Canyon, about 3.5 miles from the Laboratory and 7 miles from the Los Alamos townsite, fire officials said Sunday that there is no cause for alarm. There is no emergency and no call for an evacuation.

As a precautionary measure only, the Laboratory and the County on Sunday announced that they will move to the “set” phase of “ready, set, go” at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 9, for the townsite and White Rock. “Set” means that conditions could change rapidly, and it is time to create a plan and prepare in case of an evacuation order. For frequently asked questions related to preparation, click here.  The County has also posted FAQs on its webpage at lacnm.com/CerroPeladoFAQ

As a part of the move to “set,” the Laboratory announced that it also will begin Maximum Telework for all non-mission essential employees starting Monday at 8 a.m. Importantly, mission essential employees on-site are safe, and the Laboratory will not hesitate to take further proactive measures to ensure employees’ safety. Reducing the number of people physically on-site by moving all non-mission essential personnel to Maximum Telework will ensure the Laboratory is better prepared if conditions change and there is a need to further reduce on-site presence. 

“Just as we were ‘ready,’ we now need to get ‘set,’” Lab Director Thom Mason told employees in a video. “If you don’t have to be at work, it’s time to prepare to telework. Conditions can change quickly, it has been very dry, very windy, and we have to be respectful of that risk and ready for what comes next.”

“Set” means Los Alamos-area residents should create an evacuation plan, a “go bag,” and a communication plan that includes area evacuation and contact information, and be sure to pay close attention to news and information about the fire.

Los Alamos County has also moved to maximum telework and has closed non-essential facilities, such as the libraries and recreational facilities. 

Los Alamos Fire Chief Troy Hughes reminded residents that fire officials have been carefully studying the fire for over two weeks. The Cerro Pelado fire has been burning low to the ground over the Las Conchas burn scar, unlike the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak fires near Las Vegas, N.M. The spot fires are happening as a result of wind-borne embers.

“This is not an emergency. We just want people to get set,” Hughes said.

IF the County moves to the "go" phase, officials anticipate that it would require only residents from the townsite to evacuate. At this point, the White Rock area does not appear that it would be in the path of the fire and would remain in the “set” phase; however, White Rock residents should still be prepared the event that circumstances change.

Work to reinforce Forest Road 289 has continued this weekend, with crews spreading fire retardant, widening the roadway and removing underbrush (see map here). Los Alamos Fire Department crews are coordinating with the Bandelier National Monument staff to assist in case fire reaches the park.

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

The Great Basin Team 1 and community representatives will provide a Cerro Pelado fire update at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 9, in the Los Alamos High School Griffith Gym, 1300 Diamond Drive in Los Alamos. Viewers may also participate remotely via Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/88145419775

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. Shelter information is available here (note: the Lab and the County have no plans to evacuate at this time). 

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 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