133 acres burned on DOE, lab property

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Las Conchas: The majority of the burned acreage, though, was due to backburn

By John Severance

Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory were insistent throughout that the Los Conchas Fire only came onto LANL and Department of Energy property twice.

The first came when the fire jumped over NM 4 onto TA-49, causing a one-acre fire that was quickly extinguished June 27, the second day of the fire.

The second came on July 2 when a squirrel touched contacts in an electrical substation’s transformer at TA-53, the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) Facility substation and that fire was put out within a short period.

On Friday, the Las Conchas Burned Area Emergency Response team released the acreage burned by jurisdiction. The chart said that 133 acres burned on DOE and LANL property.

So what’s the story?

According to a person close to the situation, the other 130 acres or so came when firefighters conducted a backburn along NM 501 from Camp May Road to the back gate on NM 4.

“The strip of land is about 100 feet wide and 2 miles long and it is owned by DOE, not the National Forest,” a source close to the situation said.

“The burn was minimal at best,” said Bernie Pineda, a BAER spokesperson. “It was definitely pre-ignited and it was definitely a backburn.”

The backburn obviously worked since the fire did not encroach lab property on that front.

In all, 156,593 acres burned and crews had 80 percent of the fire as of Saturday.

According to the BAER report, nearly 79,000 acres within the Santa Fe National Forest were burned. More than 30,000 acres of the Valles Caldera National Preserve were also charred. The fire burned across 21,650 acres belonging to Jemez, Santa Clara and Santo Domingo pueblos.

Bandelier National Monument had more than 20,800 blackened.