Local News

  • Big Hat fire still burns in Valles Caldera

    The Big Hat fire in the Valles Caldera Preserve, is still burning strong and officials are hoping to keep it that way, they reported Friday.
    Park officials have turned the accidental fire that started June 22 into a managed burn. The fire is located in an area where a prescribed burn was planned this fall.
    Kimberly DeVall, the preserve’s chief of interpretation said there is no exact timeline as to when they will end the fire, which is being watched and managed by fire crews.
    “There is no timeline on it,” she said. “As long as conditions are favorable they are just going to watch it. If they do get some moisture in, they may try to do some more burn out,” she said.
    Fire officials reported the fire at 235 acres Friday afternoon. Boundaries were set at 831 acres. The burn was started by a lightning strike and discovered June 22.
    Until the fire is put out, Los Alamos County and Sandoval County residents can expect to smell and see occasional, light, plumes of smoke that may settle into low lying areas as the air cools.
    Residents that may have health concerns can call 1-888-878-8992 for more information.

  • Dawald named deputy chief

    The Los Alamos Fire Department named Battalion Chief Steven Dawald as deputy chief this week.
    Dawald joined the LAFD in 1998. During his career with the department he served as a driver engineer, captain, then as an operations battalion chief and battalion chief. He was promoted to deputy chief Tuesday.
    Dawald said he some short- and long-term goals for the position, but his immediate plans will be to first observe and become accustomed to his new role before introducing any changes.
    “The first step is to observe, and then look at some short-term and long-range goals to improve service, if need be,” he said.
    His overall strategy is to make sure things continue to run smoothly, and to maintain the standard set by previous deputy chiefs.
    “The biggest thing is, I just want to make sure everybody here has a safe and successful career. Much of that has to do is making sure we have a quality equipment, and that our cooperative agreement with the Los Alamos National Laboratory is sustained through good decisions and good performance,” he said. “Those are the things that are on the top of my list for both the long-term and short-term.”

  • LANL contract could be ‘nightmare scenario’

    The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities heard a presentation on Friday about aspects of Sandia National Laboratories’ upcoming contract that could influence the new contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    The Department of Energy anticipates issuing the LANL Request for Proposals (RFP) in 2017 and awarding the bid in 2018.
    Innovative Technology Partnerships, LLC, Principal Partner John P. Jekowski made the presentation. Jekowski also sits on the Regional Development Corporation board.
    According to Jekowski, the most important thing to monitor is a new push toward returning to a “public interest model” for lab contracts.
    “What that does is it swings the pendulum way over to a university-led or a nonprofit-led team going after the contract,” Jekowski said.
    DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have been evaluating the success of the for profit contracts utilized in recent years.
    “I think it’s fair to say that most folks will reflect back on that and say DOE and NNSA have not seen the improvements that they thought they were going to by going to a for profit business model for managing the laboratories,” Jekowski said.

  • Dallas suspect amassed personal arsenal at suburban home

    DALLAS (AP) — An Army veteran killed by Dallas police after the sniper slayings of five officers amassed a personal arsenal at his suburban home, including bomb-making materials, bulletproof vests, rifles, ammunition and a journal of combat tactics, authorities said Friday.
    The man identified as 25-year-old Micah Johnson told authorities he was upset about the fatal police shootings of two black men earlier this week and wanted to exterminate whites, "especially white officers," officials said.
    He was killed by a robot-delivered bomb after the shootings, which marked the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In all, 12 officers were shot.
    In Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee, authorities said gun-wielding civilians also shot officers in individual attacks that came after the black men were killed in Louisiana and Minnesota. Two officers were wounded, one critically.
    President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked for the public's prayers. In a letter posted online Friday, Abbott said "every life matters" and urged Texans to come together.
    "In the end," he wrote, "evil always fails."

  • BPU to consider change to water rate structure

    During its June 15 consideration of a proposed 10-percent increase in water rates, the Board of Public Utilities also discussed the possibility of a new rate structure.
    Board Member David Powell – participating in his final meeting before his term on the board ended –  advocated for a rate system with fixed charges for infrastructure costs and a separate commodities’ charge for consumption. Under the current rate structure, infrastructure costs are included in the commodities rate.
    “I think the board and the council both need to face the fact that the costs of operating the utilities are going to rise as costs of equipment, materials and labor go up. But our population, I think, is not going to grow significantly, or it may decline actually, in the next 40 years,” Powell said.
    “And people are going to figure out how to use water more efficiently. I discovered I was using almost twice as much water to water my lawn as I needed to and I’ve cut back significantly. I think other folks are going to figure out how to save water.
    “So bundling those fixed costs in the commodity charge is just not going to cover costs in the future, in my opinion.”

  • Albuquerque police receive directive after Dallas shootings

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Officers and emergency dispatchers in New Mexico's largest city are on high alert in the wake of the shootings in Dallas and have been warned by federal officials about continued threats against officers nationwide.

    Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden and Mayor Richard Berry held a news conference Friday to provide more information about a directive issued to the city's officers in response to the killings of five Dallas officers and the wounding of seven others during a protest over fatal police shootings of black men in other states.

    Eden said the plan involves a buddy system. For the next few days, dispatchers will send two officers to all calls for service.

    Eden and Berry pointed to problems across the country, including policing problems, saying Albuquerque has had its share but has been working hard to implement unprecedented changes as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over complaints of excessive force.

    "We can make a lot of progress but we can only make progress if we work together," Berry said. "We'll never make progress if it's an us-against-them situation."

  • Fire marshal: WR fire not caused by fireworks

    Los Alamos Fire Department investigators have determined a White Rock brushfire that broke out Tuesday on Cherokee Lane was not caused by fireworks, Fire Marshal Jeff Wetteland said Thursday.
    “We have found no proof of fireworks causing that fire,” Wetteland said.
    The department will not be releasing any other information, Wetteland said.
    A neighbor at the scene of the fire reported to The Los Alamos Monitor that he saw fireworks going off in a field next to the property the night before.
    “The only thing I saw was some illegal fireworks off in this direction,” neighbor, Steve Watkins said, “They were clearly visible, and they were way above the houses.”
    The fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in a field near a house on 1 Cherokee Lane. The LAFD was able to put the fire out within 20 minutes, but not before it grew to about two acres in size and scorched a section of the house’s roof.
    The homeowner, Claire Sanders, was not home at the time, but her dog was. The dog was later found to be OK.

  • UNM-LA works to fill housing gap

    University of New Mexico-Los Alamos students looking for housing close to campus this fall still have a shot, but they have to hurry.
    UNM-LA recently made a deal with Ponderosa Apartments on Trinity Drive for eight fully furnished apartments, seven two-bedroom units and one three-bedroom unit.
    “Depending on how students are willing to bunk up, they can accommodate up to 14 students,” said Kathryn Vigil, director of Student Services at UNM-LA.
    Four students have already been approved by UNM-LA and have gone on to the individual application process with the management team at Ponderosa Pines Apartments.
    While Vigil is vetting their academic performance, the applications will ultimately be decided by Pajarito Plateau Property management, the entity that manages and runs Ponderosa pines.
    More students are in the middle of the application process, Vigil said.
    Vigil has received several referrals. Move-in day won’t actually take place until August, she said. The application process is open to current students, not just incoming freshmen.

  • LANL links past oxygen-rich atmosphere on Mars to rocks

    A group of rocks found on Mars may hold the key to just how much oxygen was in the planet’s atmosphere.
    A team of Los Alamos Laboratory planetary scientists, analyzing of data from ChemCams on the Mars Discovery Rover, has discovered a link between findings on the planet and a possible oxygen-rich atmosphere.
    Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos Laboratory and a team of researchers published a paper in a scientific journal June 27.
    They based their research on what NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover’s ChemCam “saw” when it aimed its laser at a group of rocks in the Gale Crater, located in the Kimberley region of the planet.
    The ChemCam, built at LANL, gathers information by measuring and recording reactions of the Martian soil and rocks when Rover’s onboard laser makes contact with them.
    The tools aboard the Curiosity work together to determine the makeup of what ChemCam is  “looking” at and transmit that data back to Earth.
    For the four years Curiosity has spent on the Red Planet, it has transmitted data showing some targets had very high levels of manganese oxide in them. Manganese oxide is also found on Earth.
    Lanza and other scientists say manganese oxide can only be created in an atmosphere that has high levels of oxygen.

  • June’s heat above average

    June was abnormally warm in the Los Alamos area, including a heat wave that occurred near Father’s Day, according to weather specialist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    The heat wave was a result of a strong upper-level ridge of high-pressure located over the southwest states.
    From June 18-20,daily maximum temperature records were tied or broken, reported David Bruggeman, meteorologist with LANL’s Environmental Protection and Compliance Division.
    Since officials started keeping records in 1910, the recorded maximum temperature in Los Alamos was 95.2 degrees. On June 19, the temperature reached 95.5 degrees. The maximum temperature record in White Rock (since 1964) was tied on June 19 at 100.8 degrees.
    The minimum temperature measured in Los Alamos was above average each night, except for one night at the beginning of the month.
    The mean minimum temperature was 57.1 degrees (6.8 degrees above average), the warmest mean minimum temperatures in June since 1956.
    The National Weather Service defines the monsoon season from June 15 to Sept. 30. The trend of below-average precipitation continued through June.