Cerro Pelado fire Thursday (May 12) update: Fire growth smallest yet, crews still focus on Alamo Canyon, winds improve

May 12, 2022

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

The Cerro Pelado fire in the Jemez Mountains grew by only 490 acres overnight, the smallest growth since the fire began, due in part to firefighting efforts and the characteristics of the fire itself. More than 1,000 personnel are now working the fire. With calmer winds forecasted for the next several days, officials expect to be able to step up the use of aerial water and fire-retardant drops and Hotshot crews.

Overnight efforts pay off

Overnight firefighting efforts focused on Alamo Ridge and Alamo Canyon, where crews continued to take actions to slow the fire’s spread and keep it from entering Frijoles Canyon. Crews also concentrated on fire operations around and south of Forest Service Road 287, a primary containment line east of Alamo Canyon. Firefighters will continue to establish and strengthen the eastern perimeter of the fire.

On Laboratory property, teams continue to remove fuels (trees, underbrush) and do other mitigation work to reduce tree cover near utility corridors and key facilities. The Laboratory is also supporting the mitigation work in Los Alamos Canyon.

Los Alamos Fire Department Chief Troy Hughes said Los Alamos residents will see more fire operations activity in town as the department steps up proactive patrols. “This is a precaution only, not an indication of any threat,” Hughes said. “The slowness of the fire is giving us a chance to take extra preparations.”

See the most recent fire map here.

Further, as of May 7, the Laboratory and Los Alamos County 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.

Los Alamos Department Police Chief Dino Sgambellone asks citizens to report any violations of the stage 3 fire restrictions to the Los Alamos Consolidated Dispatch Center (CDC) at (505) 662-8222 or in the event of an emergency dial 9-1-1. This will ensure any incident is properly investigated or addressed by LAFD or LAPD. 

Community meeting set for this afternoon

The Great Basin Team 1 and community representatives will brief the Los Alamos community at 5:30 p.m. at the Los Alamos High School Griffith Gym, 1300 Diamond Drive in Los Alamos. Residents may also watch on Zoom at this link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82306414607

Los Alamos Public Schools will return students to school on a regular schedule on Monday, May 16. They will continue to monitor the situation closely and will adjust plans as needed. The Laboratory and N3B will remain on Maximum Telework, regardless of the schools’ status.

County and Lab remain in ‘set’ phase

Some community members have asked why the Laboratory and Los Alamos County remain in the “set” stage of “ready, set, go” even though the fire is burning in Alamo Canyon, which had been identified as a key decision point at which both might move to the “go” stage.

This is the answer: The coordinated fire team set Alamo Canyon as a “Management Action Point,” meaning it is a point at which to evaluate the fire’s growth and determine whether additional protective steps should be taken. Due to the slow-moving nature of the fire and the effectiveness so far of firefighting efforts, the fire team, NNSA, the County, the Lab and other agencies have determined that the Laboratory and Los Alamos County should remain in the “set” stage. Evacuation is not necessary at this time.

Read more about “ready, set, go.”

Please remember: These measures are precautionary and designed to give residents plenty of time to evacuate. Based on the slow speed of the fire, it is expected that, if an evacuation were ordered, there would be a 24-hour window to leave Los Alamos.

No current danger for White Rock

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 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 in the event that circumstances change.

Watch the community meeting; additional resources available