Bandelier National Monument Closed by Rapidly Spreading Wildfire

This photo of an earlier prescribed burn in Frijoles Canyon illustrates the rugged terrain in the area. NPS photo by Sally King

A rapidly spreading wildfire in northern New Mexico has forced the evacuation and closure of Bandelier National Monument. The fire began Sunday afternoon on private land near the Santa Fe National Forest about a dozen miles south of Los Alamos.

Dubbed the Las Conchas Fire, the blaze had already burned over 3,500 acres by Sunday evening, and fire officials reported that it had spread into Frijoles Canyon within the park. The fire burned actively all day to the north/northeast, and running, crowning, and spotting up to a half a mile in advance of the head of the fire was observed. Red flag conditions (hot temperatures, low humidity, high winds) contributed to intense fire behavior and rapid fire growth.

Residents living within Cochiti Mesa and Las Conchas were also evacuated, along with campers in nearby Forest Service campgrounds. Voluntary evacuations are in effect for the towns of White Rock and Los Alamos.

As of this morning, three helicopters, two Hotshot crews, nine hand crews, five dozers and thirteen engines were assigned to the fire and more resources have been requested. Work on the fire is being managed by an Interagency Team.

Officials report that power and phone lines are down in the area, and there is concern for facilities in the area near the park. By mid-morning on Monday the fire was approximately one mile southwest of the boundary of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which has also been closed. According to information from the fire management team, "the fire has not entered Laboratory property at this time. All radioactive material is appropriately accounted for and protected."

A smoke plume emitting black and grey smoke was visible Sunday from Jemez Springs, Sante Fe and as far as Albuquerque.

Given the recent problems with other fires in New Mexico and Arizona, officials at all levels are taking this one very seriously. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory Emergency Operations Center just before midnight on Sunday and has ordered the New Mexico National Guard to Los Alamos "to provide support for the ongoing efforts to protect lives, property and critical infrastructure threatened by the Las Conchas fire."

Governor Martinez has "directed state agencies to provide support for local emergency managers, firefighters, and other personnel in Sandoval County, Los Alamos County and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory."

"My administration will make every effort to provide support for the local emergency response crews. With evacuations in place and the fire burning quickly, it is important that residents in the surrounding communities remain attentive to the local emergency operations' alerts and orders," Martinez said. "Our top priority is the safety of the people of our communities and property. I'm grateful to the state and local crews who are working so hard to keep damage to a minimum."

The staff at Bandlier had already taken preventive measures "to ensure public safety in a summer of unprecedented dry conditions in which fire behavior has already demonstrated itself to be extremely severe." Beginning last Friday, the majority of the park had been closed, with only the visitor center, picnic area, Main Loop Trail, Juniper Campground, and the trail area of theTsankawi section remaining open. Those efforts came to naught when the current fire spread into the park from outside the boundary.

Information on the park website notes "the fire behavior is extreme and poses a danger to the park. The park will be closed until conditions are safe. The park website won't be updated again until the park reopens." Information posted by the fire management team this morning predicted the park would be closed for at least three days.

Comments

Grew up in Los Alamos, NM and enjoyed many, many hikes in Bandelier. It's one of the most unique, beautiful park that I have ever been to. I am so saddened to hear that Frijoles Canyon has been scarred by the fire.

It is sad. But, it will survive the fire and recover. However, the region may not survive the next 50 years of climate change.

Rich - Why? It has survived the last several million years of climate change.

I'll just refer you to the National Academies of Science, NOAA, the IPCC, and the various scientific academies of numerous countries for the latest consensus regarding climate change that is thought to be occuring at this time.

Of course there's climate change going on but many in the sciences have a tough road to hoe after the temptations of personal gain/agendas have encroached into selflessly true science. I welcome a change in the character of the dialogue. On consensus, there was at one time "consensus" that the World was flat :).

Rich - There is climate change occuring ALL the time and has been for millions of years.

That's not what the current understanding is among the scientific community. Natural, non-anthropogenic causes have been taken into account and cannot adequately explain the current observations. If you would like to offer an alternative scientific explanation, the burden of proof lies with you. (Hint: Rush Limbaugh is not a good source of scientific information).
I see where this is going. If you can dismiss a credible scientific theory for the sake of a political agenda, I have nothing more to say to you.
I hope to get down to Bandelier again sometime soon. My wife and I spent 3 days backpacking there last Thanksgiving. These places are just too important to allow our ignorance, selfishness, and petty politics to destroy.

Mr. Rich S: "I see where this is going. If you can dismiss a credible scientific theory for the sake of a political agenda, I have nothing more to say to you." That political agenda works both ways so I like to think I'm in that middle ground that is suspect of this hugely pop culture atmosphere. There's an element out there that profits greatly by selective alarmist information. I'd rather be the cool one that likes to get humbled when such thoughts come to mind and deal with and enjoy life. The country's become so polarized and many politicians have refined the use of misinformation to serve their own needs it's really incredible to watch. My thoughts for what they're worth. Hope you can get to prime time in the Bandelier:)!

Fragile petroglyphs and ancient kivas in Bandelier are indeed in danger, as is the museum and visitor center. The land itself will recover eventually, but the sacred sites and history might not. This would be an unspeakable loss. Of course, having the majestic Dome wilderness burn would be a terrible loss as well.

"(Hint: Rush Limbaugh is not a good source of scientific information)."

Rush isn't my style but I haven't seen him make up data or actively suppress information from others.

"Natural, non-anthropogenic causes have been taken into account and cannot adequately explain the current observations."

Baloney - there are many studies that have done just that - as long as you don't doctor the "observations". Besides - you would need to make a positive connection for proof not just say "gee we can't figure it out from nature so it must be human caused."

Thanks, Claudia, for a comment that is actually on the subject of the original story :-).

True Jim - but so ironic that Claudia's concerns are to protect the only human caused changes we can be sure about.

Hey Jim, you should feel good that your topic spawned a subject of much larger significance and reader engagement. You all have a worthy site here and will send support your way:).

Oppenheimer had lot's of quotes. I saw one in an article once and have been unable to find it since. It went something like this: "You can never convince a man by using facts. But, the science soon passes these people by, and they eventually just die off."
Right, Jim, the article is about a fire. The climate models indicate increased drought conditions for the southwest in the coming decades. Pine bark beetles are destroying many thousands of acres of forest, and scientists believe, based on their observations and objective data, that warmer temperatures are affecting this phenomenon. There are many other examples of the effects of anthropogenic global warming.
Could the theories be wrong? I suppose so. But, not being a scientist, I have to seriously consider the opinions of the vast majority of climate scientists who believe that humans are detrimentally affecting the earth's climate.
As for you other flat-earth Rush Limbaugh fans, you are the ones to whom Oppenheimer was referring. There is a part of me that hopes that the tipping point occurs soon enough that I can sit back and watch you all eat crow. The bottom line is, you have dismissed science for the sake of a political agenda. For you, there is no escaping this fact. You are no better than creationists. Equally ignorant, and equally dangerous to society.
This is exactly on topic. This is not just about a fire.

Rich S,"Let them eat crow!" Not a very nice thing to say but I do have a twinge of deja vu. Ever since Clinton got elected and the course of things to follow with the acceptance of deception (lies) as long as you don't show (or feel) guilt. Nixon's saving grace was that when he WAS guilty, he looked it. The lines are far more blurred now which is why I am just plain skeptical of much that is presented in the media (and science) trying to touch trigger points and excite a following. Massive grants that would end if the wrong outcome would be found is something that is part of the equation. A temptation at the very least. I am not suggesting broad strokes of disbelief about anything Global Warming but I do suggest that a willingness to ...look a little deeper into the motives of others (and ourselves) could be fruitful in getting the most correct information. Whether or not we have within us the capabilities to do anything significant, I don't know. These great places that we like to visit seem to have one common theme. They humble us and that's a very good quality :).

"The bottom line is, you have dismissed science for the sake of a political agenda."

No Rich, I believe that is exactly what you are doing. Al Gore and the Mann hockey stick that Gore's entire thesis was based upon has been scientifically discredited. The East Anglia emails have revealed how global warming alarmist have manufactured data as well assuprressed data that disproved their thesis. Those same emails show how the alarmist tried to muffle legitimate peer review. Climate models predicting catastrophic warming and CO2 increase decades out are already proving dramatically wrong (http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/co2_report_july_09.pdf). You need to recognize the difference between true science and the use of scientists to pursue a socialist agenda. I think this testimony to Congress sums it up quite well. http://epw.senate.gov/109th/Carter_Testimony.pdf

Fire up the grill, ec. Since you've apparently had more than your fair share of red kool-aid, might I suggest a nice bottle of chilled strawberry Boone's Farm to go with that crow.

ecbuck's initial point remains valid no matter which side of the climate
debate you are on. Bandelier has survived the last several million
years of climate change, why would it not survive the next 50 years of
climate change, regardless of the cause of that climate change? Even if
one accepts the generally scientifically held view of climate change
(which I generally do), I am unaware of any scientifically-based concern
that Bandelier or "the region" would not survive the next 50 years, so
any projection that it may not seems in itself rather speculative and
unscientific. (Although I would be interested in any referreed journal
sources that you might have regarding the Bandelier region.)

Learn more about Climate Change Debate:

http://www.rationalskepticism.org/pseudoscience/global-warming-science-denial-scepticism-t5955.html

The global atmospheric CO2 data during the past century plus has been increasing: never before
in Earth's History have there been over 7 billion Humans burning fossil fuels (exponential increase
of human populations growing globally); we know CO2 is a greenhouse gas; we know alpine mountain
glaciers and polar ice have all been retreating: Warmer global climate equals melting ice over the
past 160 years (since the last Little Ice Age ca. 1850 western N. America).
Question: Is this warmer air arising indirectly from burning
fossil fuels globally or from Hate Speech proponents like Rush Limbaugh who makes millions of
dollars promoting heated misinformation ? Oh, this says something about the sponsors of Limbaugh too !

Boy, has Rush Limbaugh gotten into some heads or what. Jim you have to be shaking your head about how far afield we've gone here. It's been interesting on many points, lol!I've, in the past, tried to find something constant and provable to the extreme and I've come to the end of that road finding but one constant. I had the pleasure of having a gentleman nd his family accompany me into the Canyon that was project lead on a deep space launch to gather information on the Big Bang (September of '08 I believe). Very cool for me to see him likewise in awe of the Canyon and it's presence as the revealing and almost unimaginable world of the stars. He did not at all present the image of someone trying to prove something to validate himself. Awesome experience for me to be around such people :).

In response to "Does it Matter?", here is a link to a chapter from one study specifically on western fires:
http://www.pewclimate.org/docUploads/Regional-Impacts-West.pdf

As someone living in MA who has a personal involvement in Bandelier NM and the surrounding area, we have been seeking news on the status of the Las Conchas fire and the affect it has had on the park. However, most national news reports focus on Los Alamos and its facilities. While this is understandable, we have frustrated in our attempts to search for information as to how the fire has impacted the park and Frijoles Canyon. Has it destroyed or damaged any of the park structures or the earliest American cultural sites? Does anyone have any first-hand information or links to current reports on the situation? We welcome any suggestions or recommendations and thank you for your time and cooperation.
The Taylors

Really people!
Have you nothing more to do?
Wanted to check in on the status of that wonderful park...found ALL of your B.S.!!!
Enough I say. Put out the fires and move on!

Les & Jill (not verified) Bandelier National Monument's facepage has been and is up to date on what is happening..

Les and Jill -

Thanks for the link with the update from the park.