Los Alamos, NM, 4 July 2011: Abandoned clothing at the East Fork of the Jemez River, near the origin of the Las Conchas forest fire presents a silent testimony to the hurried evacuation of people fleeing the fire.
The Las Conchas forest fire is now the largest forest fire in New Mexico history. However, at 7:30 pm, Friday, Los Alamos National Laboratory downgraded the "State of Emergency" to a "State of Recovery". The Laboratory is safe and the town has been spared from the Las Conchas forest fire. At 8:00 am yesterday morning the mandatory evacuation order given at 1:45 pm last Monday, June 27 was lifted. Residents will see spot fires in the Jemez mountains around Los Alamos and have to deal with smoke while the fire still rages to the north.
The Las Conchas forest fire had threatened the town of Los Alamos and Los Alamos National Laboratory, America's foremost nuclear research facility. 12,000 residents were evacuated and the National Laboratory was closed. The potential of LANL hazard waste becoming airborne if incinerated by the fire was avoided and air sampling has proven that the greatest health hazard is from the smoke itself.
A downed tree and power line along with extreme drought conditions are blamed for the origin of this fast moving and devastating fire. Around 1:00 pm Sunday, June 26, 2011 an aspen tree was blown down by intense winds onto a power line which ignited the tree, broke the power line and ignited the surrounding forest. The fire started roughly 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos near the Las Conchas trailhead on private property near highway marker 35 on State Road 4.