LAFD Wildlands Division Chief Kelly Sterna briefs Rotarians on the 2021 fire season

Wildlands Division Chief Kelly Sterna

Daily message from Los Alamos
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A below-average snowpack, a drier-than-usual monsoon season and the major anniversaries of two big fires are all ingredients for a recipe for disaster. And Los Alamos could be served with an active wild season this year because of these conditions, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos learned at its meeting on Tuesday.

Wildlands Division chief Kelly Sterna announced that the shooting restrictions would go into effect, likely on May 24.

“We are sitting at the 10th anniversary of Las Conchas Fire, the 21st anniversary of Cerro Grande Fire, in addition to a below average monsoon season last summer and are finishing that with a below normal snowpack this winter… to say we’re caught in the crosshairs this wildlands season might be a bit of an understatement, ”Sterna said. “However, I think our department is very well prepared. We just completed a 114-acre mitigation grant provided to us by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. “

Using the grant, Sterna said firefighters are primarily focusing on the inner Los Alamos canyons to create a buffer between property owned by Los Alamos County and private property.

Sterna added that the fire department has an advantage over potential fires as it recently replaced its devices for the Wildlands.

In addition, the fire department promotes the Ready, Set, Go program. Basically the program “makes sure that you as an individual and as a family have everything ready, everything is ready and you are able to participate in an event where we have another large scale evacuation” , Sterna said.

Evacuations are not new to Los Alamos, Sterna pointed out that there have been three: the first was in 1954 due to the Water Canyon fire, followed by the Cerro Grande fire in 2001, then the Las Conchas fire in 2011.

He added that while Los Alamos’ topography is a challenge, evacuations have improved every time. He said the evacuation time in 2000 was eight hours and was reduced to four hours in 2011.

Yet it also pays for individuals and families to be prepared, Sterna said.

“The most important thing we’re talking about are three zones of defensible space around our homes,” he said. “The biggest thing I really want to point out for our owners in Los Alamos County is the first zone, the zero-30 foot zone. We want to make sure your home has… 0 to 5 foot non-combustible materials around the house and to make sure the flooring we choose is non-combustible or draft resistant. The next two big points are probably when we store firewood or other fuels, we also want them at least 30 feet from our house. The great thing we see in Los Alamos County is cleaning the pine needles from the gutters. Again, when I emphasize these points, I really want to stress that these are very small things that we as homeowners can do that make a big difference in an impending wildfire or in trying to increase the fire. resistance of your home to forest fires. What we’re really doing is reducing the load of combustible materials around a house (and) saving that house. “

If Los Alamos encounters another evacuation, Sterna urges families not to take multiple cars, as it can add to the stress of making sure everyone is safe and responsible. He added that it’s important to have a plan on how to get out of town, to create a checklist for things like emergency supply kits, phone numbers and phone chargers. . Sterna recommended having three kits – one for the home, one for the car, and one for individuals that is portable. It should be stocked with items such as water, non-perishable food, hygiene products, radios, keys, cash, prescriptions, etc. He added that irreplaceable items can be placed in plastic bins.

If people see smoke, Sterna said a great resource to turn to for fire updates is the information on the New Mexico fires at and the Ready Set Go link

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