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Cerro Grande fire: 1992 to 2010

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By Jody Benson

When Fire Chief Douglass MacDonald came to Los Alamos in December 1992 what he noticed first was the dangerous wilderness/urban interface that surrounded the Hill.  Having come from a wildlands fire background, he decided to work to mitigate the imminent danger posed by the overcrowded forest.

In 1994, Los Alamos held an Interagency Fire Symposium. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service attempted a controlled burn around Western Area, but the community wasn’t ready.  People complained about the smoke and cutting down trees.

In ’96, the Dome Fire hit, burning beyond Bandelier past Dome Lookout.  In ’98, the Oso Fire came in from the Santa Clara side. With these red flags, the USFS initiated a thinning project on the Pueblo Canyon Shelf.  ”When the Cerro Grande fire blew across Diamond and into the Canyon,” Chief Mac said, “the crowning stopped and the fire dropped to the ground.  This thinning probably saved the community east of Diamond.”


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