By Daniel Holz | July 5, 2011 12:17 pm

Tomorrow I get to go to my office, after being forbidden to do so for the last week and a half. Although the fire is still burning and only 27% contained, and is clearly visible in the hills above Los Alamos, the “containment lines are secure”, and the mandatory evacuation order has been rescinded.

The fire itself was international news. Now that the immediate threat to Los Alamos National Lab has passed, the news cycle has moved on. But there is perhaps an equally compelling story: The largest wildfire in New Mexico history, which burned 50,000 acres in 24 hours and has now consumed over 125,000 acres, came right up to the lab’s perimeter but did no damage to the lab. It easily could have swept through Los Alamos, which although not a Fukushima-scale disaster, would nonetheless have been highly undesirable (and not just because of all my precious notes at work). The real story here is that this laboratory did a remarkable job of protecting itself, with the help of an outstanding group of firefighters (over 2,000 people from all over, aided by a small army’s worth of planes and helicopters).

Although the fire continues to threaten (including Cochiti and Santa Clara Pueblos), the worst seems to be over. The fire won’t be fully extinguished until the rains come in earnest, which could easily take another month. For the time being, the fire breaks appear to be holding, and life is slowly returning to normal. And the sunsets have been spectacular:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Media, Miscellany, Personal
  • Thomas Barton, JD

    Why is the Los Alamos lab even in a position to be threatened by fire ? Why is there not a permanent containment zone around the entire laboratory ? This would most assuredly require substantial changes to real estate and scenic land but this is the repository of so much classified materials and knowledge it is absurd that it is even vulnerable to such an event. And why can’t we ever employ real airborne tankers such as those the Canadians use to great effect. How many billions have we spent on the nuclear labs but we cant spend a couple hundred million for an effective state of the art defense against these fires ? The firefighters perform grueling work at a very high level. They deserve the best in fire fighting aircraft. Oh, Canada , can you spare a tanker or two ?!

  • Mandeep

    Dan- i fully, of course, agree that the fact that LANL and the authorities did such a great job of containing this conflagration and preventing serious damage *is* significant and newsworthy — but it’s the in the unfortunate nature of humans to apparently always dwell much more on death and disasters, alas!!! :-/

  • Farhad Keyvan

    Glad to hear the danger to the lab has subsided. BTW, I thought you worked at Cal Tech!

  • Roberto

    whats sensational? the fire ? or the sunsets? dont you think at least your comments are insensitive to say the least??

  • daniel

    @Roberto: I meant the title to refer to both the sensationalism of the press (which I discuss) and the sunsets (which I discuss). And no, I don’t think I’ve been insensitive, unless you totally miss the point of the article.

  • Roberto

    well it seemed as i missed the point(s). i had others read it and it isnt clear at all what sensational and spectacular sunsets mean in the context(s) of great tragedy. one can be insensitive without really deliberating. maybe this is the case.


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