Fire season right around the corner

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Community > Interagency officials offer tips to residents

By Tris DeRoma

At the “Wildfire 2013” event held at Fuller Lodge last Saturday, videos of the Cerro Grande and Las Conchas fires played on TV screens. They served as a visible reminder to everyone attending the event that knowledge is power when these unpredictable and deadly acts of nature come calling.


Luckily, there was plenty of information for Los Alamos residents to go around at the event, as representatives from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Valles Caldera National Preserve, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County Emergency Management, National Weather Service all showed up to pass out pamphlets, toys and general advice to inquiring residents.

The event is organized every year through the “Interagency Wildfire Management Team,” which is mainly comprised of representatives from Los Alamos County, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bandelier National Monument, Santa Fe National Forest, State of New Mexico, and others.

Gary Kemp, fire management officer for Bandelier National Monument, was on hand with Bandelier National Monument Ranger Chris Judson to answer resident’s questions.

“Given the past fire events and the history of fire in the Jemez Mountains, I think the event is pretty important,” Kemp said. “Especially for residents who are trying to build defensible spaces around their properties to make their homes safe.”

Los Alamos Emergency Management Coordinator Phil Taylor had a booth at the event as well, and was recruiting residents to sign up for the “Code Red”, the county’s mass alert system.

“It’s a means by which we can broadcast a lot of information in a hurry,” Taylor said. “Emergency notifications like evacuations, or any other type of event that requires citizens to do something, we can put a lot of information out there by Code Red.”

To sign up for the service, log onto losalamosnm.us/emo to find out more.

Taylor had signed up many people toward the end of the event. He said he mans a booth at least twice a year for different types of events.

“All the players who have a stake in wildfire management are here. It would be irresponsible if we did not do something like this,” he said. “...we live in an area on top of a volcano that has burned twice now in the past 10 or 12 years. If we lived next to the ocean and we didn’t talk about tsunamis, that would be equally irresponsible.”

Probably the biggest attraction was LANL’s computerized “sandbox” a device LANL tracks wildfires with as well as fights them. Using a computer and a projection system that’s able to project a vocabulary of graphics, symbols and colors onto a box of sand, LANL officials demonstrated how they can predict and fight a wildfire.

One resident was pretty thrilled by it all. “My aunt and her boyfriend came to see it earlier and thought it was so cool they brought us back to see it too, “ she said. “It’s really interesting, I found the technology fascinating.”

Besides the U.S. Forest Service, the Los Alamos Fire Department was there too. In the Fuller Lodge Parking lot, they had parked many different types of vehicles for the public to see.

LAFD Deputy Chief Justin Grider thought it was a great opportunity to welcome new residents to the area.

“We had a great turnout where a lot of information was shared,” Grider said. “Surprisingly, we had a lot of new residents, new homeowners to the area. It was a great opportunity to sit and talk with them to make their home firewise and safe.” To learn more about the Los Alamos Fire Department’s fire safety programs like Firewise, log onto losalamosnm.us/fire.