Cerro Grande fire, 10 years ago today

On May 10, 2000, a fire that began as a prescribed fire in Bandalier National Monument burned into Los Alamos, New Mexico. In its most extreme state on May 10, the Cerro Grande Prescribed Fire was carried by very high winds, with embers blowing a mile or more across the fire lines to the north, south, and east, entering Los Alamos Canyon towards Los Alamos, New Mexico. The towns of Los Alamos and White Rock were in the fire’s path and more than 18,000 residents were evacuated.

By the end of the day on May 10, the fire had burned 18,000 acres, destroyed 235 homes, and damaged many other structures. The fire also spread towards the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and although fires spotted onto the facility’s lands, all major structures were secured and no releases of radiation occurred.

The Cerro Grande Fire was the largest, most destructive wildfire that New Mexico has ever known. The fire swept across 47,000 forested acres in Bandelier National Monument, the Santa Fe National Forest, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County, and the Santa Clara and San Ildefonso Indian Reservations, causing about $1billion in property damage. Over 280 homes were destroyed or damaged and 40 Laboratory structures burned.

The fire had a major effect on prescribed fire operations nationwide. For more info.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

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