Cerro Pelado fire Tuesday (May 17) update: Cerro Pelado fire over 70% contained; Los Alamos National Laboratory and County move back to ‘ready’ phase of preparedness

Continued dry conditions still reason to be vigilant, fire officials say

May 17, 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

With the Cerro Pelado fire now more than 70% contained and additional containment expected today and tomorrow, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County have returned to the “ready” stage of “ready, set, go.” However, fire officials note that historically dry conditions and higher winds expected later in the week are still cause for concern and ask residents to remain vigilant.

“This move back to ‘ready’ is thanks to the scores of Lab employees and 1,000-plus firefighters from the region and all over the country,” Laboratory Director Thom Mason said. “We appreciate the flexibility of all Lab employees at this time, especially all of the mission-essential employees who remained on-site to enable us to continue our important national security functions.”

Returning to the “ready” phase means that Laboratory employees who have been teleworking during the “set” stage may now return to work on-site. During the “set” stage, the Laboratory had moved to Maximum Telework, which meant that all non-mission essential employees were asked to work remotely in an effort to reduce the number of people on-site in the event of an evacuation. Maximum Telework went into effect May 9.

Now that the threat from the Cerro Pelado fire has been significantly reduced, Laboratory leadership and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration determined that the likelihood of evacuation is low and employees could safely return to work on-site.

However, moving to “ready” does not mean the risk of wildfire is gone. “Ready” means that employees and Los Alamos County residents should remain prepared for circumstances to change. If you haven’t already, make sure to have a “go bag” packed, create an evacuation plan, and sign up for Los Alamos CodeRED by texting “LOSALAMOS” to 99411.

From this point forward, any updates about the fire from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County can be found on their websites (lanl.gov and lacnm.com/cerropelado) and their social media platforms. Daily news releases will no longer be issued unless there are significant updates to share.

All residents are reminded that Stage 3 fire restrictions will remain in place in the County and for the Lab as long as necessary — even after the Cerro Pelado fire is completely contained.

Furthermore, the Santa Fe National Forest announced today that it will implement a forest-wide closure order at 8 a.m. Thursday, May 19, prohibiting public access across the entire 1.6-million-acre forest due to active wildfires and extreme fire danger. The closure order will remain in effect until Dec. 31, unless it is rescinded earlier.

Los Alamos residents should report any violations of stage 3 fire restrictions to the Los Alamos Consolidated Dispatch Center 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 fire officials and police.

Violations of stage 3 restrictions on Laboratory property will be cause for disciplinary action. Employees should report irresponsible or dangerous fire behavior — such as throwing lit cigarettes onto the ground — to (505) 667-2400.