Cerro Pelado fire Wednesday (May 11) update: Fire sees least overnight growth since it started, crews focusing on Alamo Canyon

May 11, 2022

A Skycrane draws water from a tank at the Inter-Agency Fire Center located at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Firefighters had air support from helicopters and heavy tankers for most of the day on May 11.

A news release from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office and the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office

Despite red flag conditions (high wind, low humidity) the Cerro Pelado fire did not see significant growth Tuesday night. The fire grew 885 acres, from 42,491 acres yesterday to 43,376 acres today, which is the least overnight growth since it started.

Over 1,000 personnel are now working the fire. Overnight firefighting operations focused on Alamo Ridge and Alamo Canyon, where crews are taking actions to slow the fire’s spread and keep it from entering Frijoles Canyon. Crews also concentrated on fire operations around Forest Road 287, using this road as a primary containment line east of Alamo Canyon. Firefighters continued to establish and strengthen containment lines along the eastern perimeter of the fire.

See the most recent fire map here.

“We’ve had a record of five consecutive red flag days, and this was the second driest April in recorded history,” said Los Alamos Fire Department Chief Troy Hughes. “Despite these conditions, there has not been a significant gain in acreage, and that is a big help in terms of fighting the fire.”

While red flag conditions are expected throughout today, air operations, including heavy air tankers, will take place as long as conditions allow.

No evacuation orders in Los Alamos County have been issued. The incident command team, the NNSA, Los Alamos County, the Laboratory and other responding agencies are working closely to take all factors into account when making decisions about public safety.

“These management action points are not lines in the sand,” said Rich Nieto, the Laboratory’s wildland fire management officer. “Firefighters take a variety of factors into account—including how quickly the fire is spreading, the terrain and fuel types in the area, and how quickly fire defenses can be established—before making a decision to evacuate. Right now, the fire is moving slowly, and we do not need to evacuate.”

The N.M. 4 closure at the intersection of West Jemez Road was extended to mile marker 61 on N.M. 4 to allow for the safety of personnel conducting wildfire mitigation activities. Residents could see more fire-response personnel in the County, but this is not a cause for alarm. These are proactive measures for planning and to keep an eye out for spot fires.

County and Lab remain in ‘set’ phase

As a precautionary measure only, the Laboratory and the County on Sunday announced the move to the “set” phase of “ready, set, go,” which began for the townsite and White Rock May 9. “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.

“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.

It is also important to remember that these measures are precautionary and designed to give residents plenty of time to evacuate. The “go” stage will be situational, but it aims to give everyone a 24-hour window to evacuate if needed.

IF the County moves to the “go” phase, officials anticipate that it would initially require all neighborhoods in Los Alamos County except for White Rock. 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 in the event that circumstances change.

Watch yesterday’s community meeting; additional resources available