- WASHINGTON (UPI) - Federal
officials say the National Park Service received a warning that fire weather
conditions were hazardous some seven hours before workers lit the brush-clearing
fires anyway that eventually got out of control and burned through the
town of Los Alamos, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
- The park service was informed that climate conditions
posed dangerous risks, officials said.
- The fire destroyed some 260 homes in Los Alamos this
week, and was only 5-percent contained late Saturday. Weather conditions
were said to be improving, however, and officials hoped to have the blaze
40-percent contained by Sunday.
- The Post's disclosures came as a federal investigation
was launched to find out what went wrong in the tragic fire.
- A team led by Tom Lonnie, Bureau of Land Management Deputy
State Director for Montana, will investigate the fire until May 18 and
then issue a report, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said late Friday.
- "There are many unanswered questions," said
Babbitt. "The investigative team that we have formed will help us
to understand what went wrong and to determine if our prescribed fire policy
is sound and the established procedures are adequate."
- Babbitt also announced Friday that federal parks and
forests in the western United States have been ordered to suspend all controlled
burns for 30 days.
- "We need to take a pause," Babbitt said. "There's
an awful lot of stuff that needs to be addressed."
- The National Weather Service says it informed the park
service that conditions were not at all suitable for a controlled burn
hours before the fire was lit, the newspaper reported.
- The Weather Service says it received a request at 11:35
a.m. local time for atmospheric conditions from the park, which said it
was planning a controlled burn. Weather Service officials say they sent
a bulletin to park officials at 12:20 p.m. that said: "6 Haines Index
through Friday," the Post reported.
- The Haines Index is a gauge for the possibility of fires
going out of control; a Haines rating of 5 or 6 signifies a good chance
of the flames spreading out of control.
- The intentional burn started by forestry officials in
the Bandelier National Monument park of New Mexico on May 4 forced a shutdown
of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. More than 20,000 area residents
were evacuated and will likely be unable to return to what is left of their
homes -- if anything at all -- until next week.
- The official responsible for approving the ill-fated
controlled fire, Superintendent Roy Weaver of Bandelier National Monument,
was placed on administrative leave.
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