The Cerro Grande Fire - Part 2

Harvey Eisner describes the massive effort to control a wildland fire that threatened Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

On Fire Patrol Firefighters continued to patrol the neighborhoods and lab site. Rekindles involving foundations and tree stumps were extinguished for five days. On Thursday and Friday, the fire made major runs on LANL property. Explosions from houses were common. Stored small arms ammunition...

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Critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) is a must for firefighters, support staff and wives. Firefighters have limits. You can't make miracles.

Although some thinning of the forest was done outside the city and some areas within the city and lab site, as one firefighter put it, "$500,000 in prevention would have saved billions of dollars in rehabilitation."

The final statistics were:

  • 14 days
  • 1,600 firefighters
  • 65 New Mexico departments and agencies
  • 10 helicopters
  • Six slurry bombers
  • 900 five-gallon containers of Class A foam
  • 43% of LANL property burned
  • 237 structures destroyed and 38 others damaged in Los Alamos
  • 145 houses directly saved by firefighting efforts
  • 402 families were left homeless
  • 4,600 structures in the city
  • 60% of the city projected to be involved, but only 6% was involved.
  • $1 billion in damage

So far this year, 607 wildfires have occurred in New Mexico, burning 298,541 acres. By comparison, for all of 1994, there were 2,730 fires that consumed 409,246 acres.