New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument holds clues to what may happen to forests affected by massive fires
On a warm day in April, at the outset of the 2018 fire season, Laura Trader, a fire ecologist at Bandelier National Monument, braced herself against a 50 mile per hour wind and looked out over several hundred-thousand acres of burned land in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains. Trader was near this same mesa on May 10, 2000, when a prescribed fire lit inside the monument escaped its lines and destroyed 235 homes in the nearby town of Los Alamos. The so-called Cerro Grande Fire caused such astronomical damage that Congress allocated a billion dollars just to clean up that one fire. Bandelier’s chief received death threats in the aftermath. Trader was also here on June 26, 2011, the day when the Las Conchas Fire erupted and incinerated 43,000 acres of Jemez Mountains pine forest in 11 hours.