- Los Alamos
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Updated 5/02.
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