Wildfire Season Winds Down

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LAFD: Two small fires broke out earlier this month on lab property

By Tris DeRoma

Apparently, Los Alamos’ fire season just thought it might get in a couple more licks before closing down for good.

According to the Los Alamos Fire Department, two fires cropped up on July 2 near the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The fires weren’t close enough to cause immediate concern however and were tamped down pretty quickly. They both occurred about two miles away from any buildings owned by the lab.

“We had a lightning strike at the bottom of Water Canyon, crews got on it right away, and it was put out that evening,” LAFD Deputy Chief Justin Grider said.

The other fire occurred later in Rendija Canyon and was under control within two hours.

Since LANL doesn’t have its own fire department, the LAFD answers all calls concerning fires on lab property, said Grider, who added that the LAFD and LANL’s emergency services have an extensive working relationship.

“We do all of our training with LANL, integrate with their emergency managers and make sure things go smoothly,” Grider said.

According to Grider, fire season starts around the end of April and goes until the end of July. “When the storms start kicking in, that’s when our fire season ends,” he said.

Grider also said that Los Alamos as a whole has been practicing fire prevention, due to lessons learned from the Cerro Grande fire in 2000 and the Las Conchas fire in 2011.

The Los Alamos Fire Department has a lot of information on how to prevent wildfires as well as how to defend your property against them. In the “search” bar on their website, just type in “Ready Set, Go” or “Firewise” to learn more.

The lab’s emergency department is always creating and managing fire breaks along East Jemez Road and other strategic places around the laboratory.

“We do a lot of clearing and removing of brush, so that way we can create a lot of natural firebreaks and barriers,” said LANL Spokesman Steve Sandoval. “We also publish constant reminders for the employees about watching out for fire, and constantly remind employees to call our emergency center even if they just see a spot fire or smoke anywhere on the property.”

In and around the lab, the word “defensible space” also gets thrown around a lot, said Sandoval.

“Defensible space is the space around the buildings that’s clear of debris and brush that could easily become fuel for a wildfire, Sandoval explains.

“We remind people to practice defensible space at the laboratory and at home too,” Sandoval said. “If they see anything outside the lab buildings that could be a potential fuel source they are told to notify their facility director who can then make an assessment. If it needs to be removed, then it’s removed.”