Tuesday, June 28, 2011

nukes and fire don't mix

We've got a bunch of wildfires going on around here. On June 18th I had a party to celebrate my one year anniversary in Santa Fe. That afternoon on my way to buy ice, I saw a huge smoke plume in the mountains. This was the start of the Pacheco fire, 2 miles from the Santa Fe ski area. It was, and is, a serious fire, only 15% contained at this point. The road up the mountain has been closed at mile marker 9, and smoke has filled the air. The fire destroyed power lines and threatens the watershed.

I took a photo of the smoke plume on Saturday, a week after it had started. This was taken from the riverwalk that we walk on several times a day. Of course there's no water in the river but that's another story.

Sunday a fire broke out not far from Los Alamos and spread with lightning speed, tripling in size in one night. This fire is called the Las Conchas fire which apparently started on private land, and the size and scale of it are frightening. It's currently over 90 square miles, almost twice as large as a terrible fire that destroyed many homes and forest land in 2000, the Cerro Grande fire. That fire burned 47,000 acres at the Bandelier National Monument, and destroyed 100 buildings including some at the lab complex. The forest still hasn't recovered from that fire, which started with a controlled burn that quickly got out of control.

The town of Los Alamos has been evacuated- 12,000 people. And the nuclear lab in Los Alamos is less than a mile from the fire's edge. So far they've been able to keep the fire from spreading to the labs and burning toxins that are stored there. It's a big story, carried by media all over the world. Just enter Los Alamos fire into google or twitter and see what I mean. These photos are from The Atlantic:

The sunsets we've been having with all this smoke in the air have been both eerie and beautiful. Fortunately for us down here in SF, the smoke and fire are spreading north, but we've still got bad air quality. Today I went to the gym to run instead of doing it outside.

A friend who listens to Amy Goodman (I do sometimes, but find it so depressing) said that today a guy who serves as a watchdog of sorts for the lab was on the show, and he said that if New Mexico seceded from the US, that it would represent the third largest nuclear power in the world. That's how much we've got in nukes around here. Of course, LANL is where the bomb was invented. They still employ thousands of people, toiling away at various ways of hitting atoms together to do stuff, good and bad I suppose, depending on your POV. They developed the metal for Nambe objects there. I don't know what else goes on. It's very very mysterious.

I worry most about the 4th of July coming up. We have fields behind our houses where kids like to set off fireworks, and this year that could be disastrous. Not sure what to do about it. Our esteemed governor says she doesn't have the authority to make fireworks illegal- this has to be a legislative act, and the legislature meets for about three days in May I think.

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