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Aspen probe widens

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Las Conchas: Samples from the fallen tree are too charred

By John Severance

Officials are still working on the autopsy of the infamous aspen tree that caused the largest wildfire in New Mexico history and threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Town Site.
Last month, Bob Parmenter, Dennis Trujillo, and Rebecca Oertel from the Valles Caldera, and Craig Allen, Collin Haffey, and Leanna Lucore from Bandelier, discovered the tree lying across the power line right-of-way on a ridge-top about a quarter mile west of Las Conchas.
The 75-foot tall tree, located about 13 miles west of Los Alamos, had fallen southward through a gap in the standing fir, the only trajectory that would have allowed it to snag the power line. The tree was on private land and it fell to the south and hit the power line, sparking the fire that burned more than 150,000 acres.
In an email Friday, Parmenter said they will be heading back to the infamous tree.
“We’ll be going back to find a better Ponderosa pine trunk to sample, as the one we cut was too charred on the outside (the fire burned away the outer years of the trunk, so it couldn’t tell us about local fires in the last 200 years).
“So, the story has some unfinished chapters, but we’re making progress.”
According to the report from the University of Arizona, scientists sanded the lowest (oldest) section of the aspen.


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