Retired Los Alamos scientist says he has a better way to fight forest fires: Get the Air Force involved
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Summer has just started but it has already been a deadly fire season in New Mexico and a retired Los Alamos scientist says it’s time to use 21st century technology and even the US Air Force to radically change the way states — particularly in the Southwest — and federal government officials fight wildfires.
Chick Keller worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a graduate student in 1967 and became a permanent staff member in 1969 and is now the facilities director at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center and says the current system for battling forest fires is dangerously outdated.Capitol Report New Mexico talked to Keller on Wednesday (June 20):
*Just two days after the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso was declared the most destructive in terms of homesites (242) in the history of the state
*Just hours before residents in the town of Corrales that borders Albuquerque received a close call when a fast-growing bosque fire nearly reached homes and forced the evacuations of 80 people in the Sandia Pueblo due to smoke concerns
Here’s Keller’s take on a better way to fight wildfires:
Keller’s specifics come while the debate about forest management and fire suppression is raging.
US Forest Service officials called a news conference this past weekend to defend their handling of the Little Bear Fire after Congressman Steve Pearce criticized their efforts in the early stages of the fire and while Gov. Susana Martinez hailed the efforts of fire crews in the Ruidoso area and said critiques can come once the Little Bear Fire is put out, she appeared on NBC Nightly News last week and said that “year after year after year of mismanagement” of national forests contributed — as well as exceedingly dry conditions — to the intensity of recent fires.
Keller says it’s crucial to think differently and to think bigger about fire suppression, even if some might disagree with his suggestions.
“Look, okay maybe this isn’t the best way to do it,” he said, “but we need to do something. I think hearings would do it; calling for scientific and technical meetings to really evaluate this.”
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Capitol Report New Mexico, Chick Keller, Las Conchas Fire, Little Bear Fire, Los Alaamos National Laboratory, NBC Nightly News, Pajarito Environmental Education Center, Steve Pearce, Susana Martinez, US Forest Service, Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire