USA: Los Alamos Blaze Blamed on Policy; 12 June 2001

USA: Los Alamos Blaze Blamed on Policy

12 June 2001

Source: Associated Press

Albuquerque, NewMexico, USA (AP) – A new report on last year’s wildfire that left more than 400 families homeless in Los Alamos recommends against disciplining any National Park Service workers, blaming the fire on inadequate agency policies, rather than staff mistakes. The report from a federal board of inquiry, released Tuesday, recommended no disciplinary action be taken against former Bandelier National Monument Superintendent Roy Weaver or other key employees involved with a planned burn that grew into the Cerro Grande Fire. Weaver, who retired last year, has said for months he expected the board of inquiry to exonerate him and other Bandelier officials. Earlier reports on the blaze, including one from the U.S. General Accounting Office, concluded Bandelier staff members seriously underestimated the fire danger in the dry Jemez Mountains last year before moving ahead with the prescribed burn. The fire, which burned more than 42,000 acres in May 2000, started from the controlled burn set by the National Park Service on nearby Bandelier. The fire was intended to burn underbrush on about 1,000 acres to reduce the threat of a catastrophic fire. Instead, winds swept the flames into the northern and western edges of Los Alamos, forcing the evacuation of the entire town and Los Alamos National Laboratory. The federal board said the Park Service’s rating system for the prescribed fire was flawed because a fire management rating guide for prescribed burns posted on the Internet was incorrect when the Cerro Grande prescribed burn was set. The inaccuracy went undetected and unreported, the report said. Bandelier complied with Park Service policies, “but due to circumstances unknown to them used an incorrect version of the complexity rating system”, it said. The board and other investigations “found that direction provided by the agency was inadequate, and the agency’s policies themselves had weaknesses”, Karen Wade, Intermountain director of the Park Service in Denver, wrote in a memo endorsing the board’s report. “Therefore, the employees implementing those policies with that guidance cannot fairly be held responsible for the result”. She agreed with the board’s conclusion that neither Weaver nor four other employees involved in the controlled burn violated Park Service policies or regulations. The latest report, like other investigations earlier, said the federal government needs to standardize the forms it uses to gauge the complexity of conditions before lighting controlled burns.

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien