BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County Councilors during their regular session Tuesday evening issued a proclamation denoting the 10th anniversary of the Las Conchas Fire. On hand to accept the proclamation were Los Alamos Fire Department Chief Troy Hughes, Deputy Chief Steve Dawald and Wildland Fire Division Chief Kelly Sterna, as well as Chief of Police Dino Sgambellone.
Chief Hughes asked that Chief Dawald, as Operations Chief, and Chief Sterna, as Wildland Fire Division Chief, both receive that recognition.
“They were part of the crew that were here for two weeks with blisters on their feet, hungry and tired, I came on shortly after that. We learned a lot of lessons from that and made a lot of changes to our wildland fire program. We actually established the Wildland Division after that and some of the mitigation things we’re doing so we appreciate the kind words,” Chief Hughes said.
Chief Dawald said it has been 10 years and Los Alamos definitely looks different.
“As a department, we are better and stronger because of the experiences that we went through,” he said, adding his thanks to the Council for supporting the department.
Chief Sterna said it goes without saying that the efforts Council has put forward and the tools it has provided to the Wildland Fire Division, for its mitigation efforts, response and education training, which he said make Los Alamos a great place to be a part of the Wildland Division.
Chief Sgambellone mentioned that in the County during the Las Conchas Fire.
“From what I hear, it wasn’t just public safety, so I’d like to take a moment to recognize the County as a whole and the citizens of this County that came together during a critical time. Should it happen again we have confidence in our community being able to come together and do what’s necessary to protect lives and property,” Chief Sgambellone said.
The proclamation read by Council Vice Chair James Robinson is as follows:
WHEREAS: It has been ten years since the Las Conchas Wildfire – which was at that time, the largest fire to ever occur in New Mexico – and the Los Alamos County Council wishes to mark this historic milestone for our community with a moment of sadness for our landscape that forever changed, as well as offer our gratitude for all of those in our community who helped us recover after this terrible fire threatened us on June 26, 2011; and
WHEREAS: We especially remember and thank our firefighters, emergency responders and police officers who battled the flames on the front lines, protected lives and property, and worked to evacuate Los Alamos safely during this raging wildfire that ultimately burned over 154,000 acres before it could be contained, primarily damaging nearby Bandelier National Monument, miles of backcountry trails and Frijoles Canyon; and
WHEREAS: The fire was ignited approximately 5.5 miles west of Bandelier, when a large tree fell on a power line among high winds, sparking the fire near the Las Conchas recreational area; during the first night of the blaze, the fire rapidly burned over 43,000 acres, spreading at a rate of an acre per second and offering dramatic views of the flames across the ridgetop of Los Alamos as it burned far into the night; and
WHEREAS: The Las Conchas wildfire burned so hot and so fast that it left in its wake severe damage to the surrounding landscape, even through previous burn footprints of the La Mesa, Dome and Cerro Grande fires – consuming homes in the forest, threatening Los Alamos National Laboratory, the beautiful Valles Caldera National Preserve, and our town of Los Alamos – and we offer a heartfelt thanks to all those who helped us through this difficult time and over many days of recovery that followed after the fire, including the threat and damage caused by local flooding at Bandelier;
NOW, THEREFORE, on behalf of the Council of the Incorporated County of Los Alamos, I do hereby ask our community to once again express their gratitude to all firefighters, public safety personnel, emergency responders, Bandelier staff and volunteers who put their lives on the line to protect us, or who served our community in numerous ways, as we remember
“THE TEN-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE LAS CONCHAS WILDFIRE”