CONTACT: Fran Talley, , 505-667-5225 (00-061)

Laboratory co-hosts 'Wildfire 2000: Los Alamos at risk' on April 26

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., April 21, 2000 -- The Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Interagency Wildfire Management Team will co-host a public meeting Wednesday, April 26 in Fuller Lodge, Los Alamos, to provide an update on current fire conditions, cooperative efforts to mitigate the risk to the community and safety procedures should a wildfire threaten Los Alamos County.

"Wildfire 2000: Los Alamos at Risk," begins at 6 p.m. with exhibits and poster displays by the Interagency Wildfire Management Group. It is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

It includes a presentation, "The La Mesa Fire: A Wakeup Call," by retired Laboratory ecologist Teralene Foxx starting at 6:15 p.m. in the Curtis Room at Fuller Lodge.

"'Wildfire 2000' is part of a series of community environmental meetings the Laboratory has hosted in surrounding communities," said Denny Erickson, the Laboratory's Environmental Safety and Health Division Director and sponsor of the Public Interface Design Study team.

"This meeting falls on the fourth anniversary of the 1996 Dome Fire which destroyed more than 16,000 acres of Jemez forest just south of Los Alamos," said Erickson. "Co-sponsoring the event with the IWMT is important to us. It was the Dome Fire and the interagency relationships that developed during the fire that led to the Interagency Team,"

Erickson said.

"It's not a matter of if but when wildfire will again threaten the Lab, Los Alamos and surrounding areas," said IWMT Chair Diana Webb of Los Alamos' Ecology Group. "We can't stress this enough. This winter's drought was one of the worst on record. This fact and the experience of the last few fire seasons has once again demonstrated the serious and dramatic threat of wild land fire to the communities of this region and
to the Laboratory," said Webb.

"Los Alamos National Laboratory is situated in a Ponderosa Pine ecosystem, and should be managed as such," added IWMT member Pat Valerio of Los Alamos' Ecology Group. "We had forgotten about the effects of the La Mesa Fire on the Laboratory and the Dome Fire was a wake-up call."

Valerio said despite extensive thinning efforts, areas of the Laboratory and the town site remain at high risk from wildfire damage because of the abundance of trees, brush and other natural fuels.

The meeting will include exhibits on prescribed fires, the Valle fuel management project, fire modeling, wildfire-induced surface soil erosion hazards and the Los Alamos Fire Department's Fire Safety School trailer.

"The Missing Fires," a National Park Service video, and Laboratory footage from the devastating 1996 Dome Fire also will be shown.

A panel discussion in the Fuller Lodge Pajarito Room will begin at 7 p.m. Panelists will talk about the interagency partnerships of the IWMT, current fire risks to Los Alamos County, what's being done to reduce those risks, prescribed burns and the Los Alamos Evacuation Plan.

Moderated by Los Alamos County Councilor Robert Gibson, panelists will include Los Alamos' Valerio; Steve Coburn, Los Alamos County Fire Marshal; John Bruin, United States Forest Service and Department of Energy liaison; Al King, Bandelier Area Fire Management Officer; and Robert Repass, Los Alamos County Emergency Manager.

For more information, contact Linda Anderman of the Laboratory's Community Relations Office at 665-9196, or 1-800-508-4400.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy.

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