Los Alamos on Fire 
The Santa Fe Skies RV Park is situated at the top of a hill surrounded by mountains. The view is spectacular. The only downside of this otherwise great location is the wind. The wind begins in the morning as the sun warms the ground and continues until sunset. Inside the motorhome we generally don't notice until we start "rock'n n' roll'n" at about 40mph. It's never a threat, just a strange sensation.
The park has a great 3/4 mile walking trail that runs around the outside of the park. We try to take a couple laps around the park each afternoon. On most days the sky is clear and blue. However, late the week of May 8 we noticed a small plumb of smoke rising from the hills to the northwest. Soon we could smell smoke. The RV park owner indicated that they often do controlled burns in the forest. This controlled burn was being initiated near Bandelier National Monument.
Before long it was announced that the fire was no longer under control and it was moving quickly across forest land toward the city of Los Alamos. As we took our trip to Chaco Cultural Historic Site and Aztec National Monument, we heard updates on the movement of the fire. As we returned to Santa Fe through Espanola, we could tell the smoke was beginning to get serious. It was thick in the air of this small town.
When we arrived back in the campground we were astonished to find how much the smoke cloud had grown. The small plump of smoke grew into what looked like a huge thunderhead that reached as far as you could see to the northeast into the mountains.
Initially, people were very concerned about the Los Alamos laboratories. Well-known for top-secret weapons research, people were concerned about explosions and other possible disasters that could occur as the fire reached the labs. The public relations people were very clear that all dangerous materials were stored safely under ground. However we were wondering if this was actually true or just a good cover story.
On Wednesday, the call for evacuation of Los Alamos was given at 1:30 PM. It was confirmed that the fire was headed directly for Los Alamos. We normally watch television on our satellite dish, but we quickly turned in local television for updates. Over the next several hours, 15,000 were calmly evacuated from Los Alamos to the outlying areas. We'd never seen anything run more smoothly. They systematically evacuated the town in just a few hours. Though the situation was serious, we had to laugh that the city planners probably consisted of a bunch of focused, logical scientists. No panicky, impulsive people in this group. We could see the fire getting closer. As buildings caught fire large plumbs of smoke appeared.
Although shelters were established, most people found shelter with friends or at the local hotels and campgrounds that opened their doors to anyone who could make it to Santa Fe. People quickly mobilized to provide support for the people in this well-known town. Our campground owner was particularly concerned. Her father had been the fire chief in Los Alamos many years before. She quickly created a flier offering free campsites.
Many Los Alamos residents and the command center had moved to White Rock. By early Thursday morning it became clear that the fire was continuing to grow. A second evacuation was called for White Rock and Espanola. This time they moved to Santa Fe.
At this point, Annette was preparing to head off for a conference in Palm Springs, California. She was frustrated by the lack of news during her trip. Although the local papers and USA today did a cover story, the rest of the world seemed unshaken by the event.
Didn't the world know that New Mexico was on fire? It was being called the worst disaster in New Mexico history and CNN was only covering it for 2 minutes every half hour. Was Elian's trip to the zoo and the status of the tech stocks the only thing that concerned people? With global communication, it was surprising how little information was available on the media... until she hit the Internet. Suddenly, there was information everywhere. People really did care and want to connect with one another at this time of disaster.
A website was setup to organize people and resources. People volunteered to stable animals, opened their home to the needy, and shared information about loved ones. You could even find satellite photos of the fire.
You can read about how people are rebuilding.

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 7/01.
Updated 5/02.
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