The United States Forest Service finally admitted that its own prescribed burn started the 2022 wildfire that consumed more than 60 square miles.
The Cerro Pelado Fire came within just a few miles of Los Alamos, as well as a U.S. national security lab before burning out. It threatened schools and caused entire communities to be evacuated.
“The people of New Mexico are extremely disappointed, but not at all shocked at this acknowledgement,” said Brian S. Colón, Managing Partner of Singleton Schreiber’s New Mexico offices and former State Auditor. “This has been an open secret essentially since these fires began. What is more shocking is that it took this federal agency almost 18 months to admit the truth. What needs to happen now is a complete change in behavior, an openness with local fire officials on future attempts to start prescribed burns, and greater transparency overall.”
This was not the first prescribed burn to go out of control in New Mexico’s history. In 2000, the Cerro Grande Fire swept through the Los Alamos area, destroying more than 230 homes and 45 structures at the local laboratory. In 2011, a similar event occurred, damaging the same area.
"Residents, government officials and homeowners are fearful that these prescribed burns are nothing more than a recipe for disaster," Mr. Colón added. "Climate change has altered the nature of these burns and the landscape in general. The U.S. Forest Service must acknowledge this as well and act accordingly."
Currently, Singleton Schreiber represents thousands of individuals impacted by the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire that burned out of control at a similar time. Homeowners and those impacted by the Hermit’s Peak, Cerro Pelado and other fires continue to contact the firm for help in dealing with the fallout.
"Our firm is here to help those who have been impacted, we are often their last line of defense after they've lost homes, lost loved one or been injured," said Mr. Colón.
About Singleton Schreiber
With over 200 employees and offices throughout the western United States (including 7 in New Mexico), Singleton Schreiber has represented more than 12,000 victims of utility fires and has recovered approximately $2 billion in settlements and verdicts for its clients. The firm currently represents thousands of victims of the numerous fires in California, New Mexico, and Oregon. The firm's dedication to obtaining justice for those impacted by toxic conditions and environmental hazards sets it apart from the competition. The firm is also a premier personal injury firm, obtaining top results for clients, including more than $100 million in verdicts in 2022.