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Fire Surrounds Los Alamos Nuke Lab

Posted by feww on June 29, 2011

LANL shuts down supercomputers as fire advances

Las Conchas fire explodes to more than 70,000 acres, attacking south and west of Los Alamos

The massive blaze has destroyed at least a dozen homes in Los Alamos County so far, officials said.

Meantime,  The Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) said it had shut down two of its largest supercomputers, as the massive blaze continued to burn nearby.

A team of Los Alamos employees have reportedly conducted preliminary analysis on air samples taken near the nuke lab on Tuesday.

“There is no additional material in the samples from lab activities or from our waste-management activities.”Said the lab director Charles McMillan.

In 2000, after Cerro Grande fire broke out, Los Alamos employees detected elevated levels of radioactive radon gas.

Las Conchas Fire map

Las Conchas Fire map June 29, 2011. Click image to enlarge. Original Map (PDF)

Las Conchas Fire Progression Map June 28, 2011. Click image to enlarge.

Flames above Los Alamos.
Photo taken by Los Alamos National Laboratory on June 28, 2011. Some rights reserved

Volcanic Like Smoke Billowing out of Santa Fe National Forest. This image showing the Las Conchas wildfire raging in the Jemez Mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest in north-central New Mexico the was taken by a crew member aboard the ISS on June 27. The fire is  burning just southwest of LANL. Source: NASA.

Fire Summary:

  • Name: Las Conchas Fire
  • Date Started: 1 p.m., 6/26/2011
  • Location: Approximately 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos off NM 4 at mile marker 35
  • Fuels: Mixed Conifer, Ponderosa Pine. Fuel moisture is extremely low.
  • Cause: Unknown – under investigation [The fire was reportedly ignited by a fallen power line]
  • Size: 69,555 acres based on 06/29 infrared data
  • Percent Contained: 3%
  • Residences Destroyed: 12

Fire Update [from InciWeb]

Area Command Team 1 (Dan Oltrogge, Area Commander) and an additional Type 1 Incident Management Team (Dugger Hughes, Incident Commander) in-briefed with host agencies late yesterday. Firefighting efforts were broken in two zones. Rienarz’s Type 1 Incident Management Team will manage the north zone of the fire and Hughes’s Incident Management Team will manage the south zone. Crews are dealing with extremely dry fuels and potential threats from thunderstorms and dry lightning strikes.

Northwest – Firefighters scouted a potential fireline and burnout opportunities, including opportunities for aerial ignition on peaks to help moderate fire intensity along Valles Caldera 2 Road and Valles Caldera 9 Road. Firefighters will also continue to maintain a fire line using mop up methods along 4 Road to prevent the fire from spreading within the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Fire line construction will also continue toward the Cerro Pelado area.

East – Firefighters will be working along SR 501 and Ski Area Road on through Highway 4 to curb the fire from spreading east. Structural protection continues in Bandelier National Monument. Crews will also be working spot fires along Ski Area Road. A structure implementation plan was set in place for the Pajarito Ski Area. The Los Alamos Fire Department was brought in to provide added resources in the area.

A Sandoval County Assessment team is completing a post fire damage assessment. Their current assessment has documented twelve residences destroyed.

South side – The fire is backing down several drainages. Firefighters are scouting for potential fireline south of the fire and monitor the Alamo and Hondo Canyons, as well as the Sanchez and Capulin Canyon.

Current Evacuations:

City of Los Alamos – The acting Los Alamos County Administrator issued an evacuation order for the city of Los Alamos. The Cities of Gold hotel in Pojoaque is offering shelter services for evacuating residents of Los Alamos. Los Alamos evacuees are advised against sheltering in White Rock, although White Rock is not at risk. White Rock is currently under a voluntary evacuation.

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society and the Espanola Valley Humane Society will be taking in dogs, cats and other small household pets to help those displaced by the Las Conches Fire. They are also collecting names for those willing to host animals. For more information, please contact: Santa Fe (503) 983-4309, or Espanola (505) 753-8662.

The American Red Cross in New Mexico activated two official shelters in northern New Mexico: the Santa Claran Hotel & Casino in Espanola and the Cities of Gold Casino near Santa Fe. The American Red Cross (505) 265-8514 or 800-560-2302.

Pre-Evacuation Alert

If you live near the fire or near the Forest, you should always be ready for emergencies including evacuations, the three-step process is easy to remember and implement:

· Ready – Take personal responsibility and prepare before the threat of a wildland fire so your home is ready in case of a fire. Create defensible space by clearing brush away from your home. Use fire-resistant landscaping and harden your home with fire-safe construction measures. Assemble emergency supplies and belongings in a safe spot. Plan escapes routes. Make sure all those residing within the home know the plan of action.

· Set – Act immediately. Pack your vehicle with your emergency items. Remember your six P’s: people, personal computers, pets, pills, papers and pictures. Stay aware of the latest news and information on the fire from local media and your local fire department.

· Go – Leave early! Follow your personal action plan. Doing so will not only support your safety, but will allow firefighters to best maneuver resources to combat the fire.


NM 4 is closed at Jemez Falls Campground and at NM 501. NM 502 westbound into Los Alamos is now closed to all motorists. Access is controlled and limited to official traffic until further notification.

For a recorded update on evacuations and road closures, call a Santa Fe National Forest toll-free line: 877-971-FIRE.

Bureau of Land Management: The Bureau of Land Management’s Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument will close to the public. The monument isn’t currently threatened, but the road to the monument will be used by firefighters to access the southern flank of the fire.

Bandelier National Monument: The Bandelier National Monument will be closed indefinitely.

Los Alamos National Labs: The Los Alamos National Laboratory will be closed due to the fire. All laboratory facilities will be closed for all activities, and nonessential employees are directed to remain off site. Employees that are considered nonessential should not report to work unless specifically directed by their line managers. Employees should check local news sources, the LANL Update Hotline (505) 667-6622 and the LANL web page for updates. All radioactive and hazardous material is appropriately accounted for and protected. LANL staff is coordinating the on-site response and supporting the county and federal fire response.

Safety Message

The wildfire and burnout operations will continue to produce heavy smoke. Residents with respiratory problems in the path of smoke may want to consider relocating temporarily until smoke dissipates. Motorists should exercise caution due to reduced visibility.

Related Sites

Related Links:

One Response to “Fire Surrounds Los Alamos Nuke Lab”

  1. FS said

    [Thanks! Moderator.]

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