Forest Fires in Los Alamos

Executive Summary

 This report is about the Los Alamos prescribed forest fires. May 4, 2000 the Bandilier National monument superintendent ordered a prescribed fire. This particular fire got out of hand and ended up burning the town of Los Alamos. In this report I tell about who ordered the fire, and what exactly was lost because of the fire. There are also a few paragraphs on alternative methods to prescribed burns, which are timber harvesting and mechanical thinning.

Introduction

 A prescribed fire also called a prescribed burn is a method of getting rid of unwanted brush in forestlands. Prescribed fires have been used for many years. They have some significant value, such as the brush enriches the ground after being burned. On the other hand sometimes a prescribed burn can get out of control and burn other things that were not supposed to be burned.

Problem On May 4, 2000 Roy Weaver, Bandelier National Monuments superintendent ordered a prescribed burn. This particular burn did not only burn at the Bandelier Nation Monument, it gout out of control and spread to Los Alamos. Which is a town just south of Bandelier National Monument. This fire has been named the Los Alamos fire.

Los Alamos was not alone facing a lard fire hazard. In 1998, Barry Hill, associate director of the General Accounting Office testified to the Congress that an "increasing number of large, intense, uncontrollable, and catastrophically destructive wildfires" were being seen across the West. As a result of past fire suppression," vegetation [had] accumulated, creating high levels of fuels--and transforming much of the region into a tinderbox." Why it was Set The National Park Service workers, at the Bandelier National Monument, set the fire. This fire was set to clear out brush.

Who's to Blame Politicians and the press have rushed to heap blame on the superintendent of Bandelier National Monument, Roy Weaver, who is easy enough bow to be in retrospect set a prescribed fire in unfavorable weather conditions. He was put on administrative leave but it's an old story: Blame the sergeants and let the generals go free.

In an interview with the New York Times before he was put on leave, Weaver said: "the data and the spot weather forecasts net the fore prescription. It's not like someone was just picking things out of the air." He said the winds whipped up unexpectedly and the flames spread towards Los Alamos.

Where it Spread Although the Los Alamos fire started as a prescribed burn on Bandelier National Monument, it soon moved to the Santa Fe National Forest where most of the burning actually took place. Weather conditions the day of the fire were extremely dry with high winds and low humidity. These weather conditions only made it worse when they tried to put out the fire. High winds whipped the fire out of control and another fire set to control the first became the inferno the burned the town of Los Alamos forcing the evacuation of 25,000 people and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The overall fire damage is thought to be about one million dollars.

What was Destroyed The Los Alamos fires burned about 47,460 acres of land. Also, 380 buildings were either destroyed or damaged. As seen in the Los Alamos fires, there is always a chance that something can go wrong and the fire can get out of control.

Solutions Prescribed fires are very good ways to get rid of underbrush, but they are very costly. They also have a lot of safety concerns, and air pollution restrictions limit the use of prescribed fires. Although there is a need to get rid of the underbrush in forests, prescribed burns are not necessarily the only way to do this. There are other means of getting rid of unwanted underbrush.

Mechanical Thinning

Mechanical thinning is chopping down the trees whether this is by hand or machines. Mechanical thinning also brings in revenue, unlike prescribed fires.

Timber Harvesting Timber harvesting is another way to manage a forest. Mechanical thinning and timber harvesting both create jobs in the community and also bring in revenue.