By Sgt. Suzanna Dominguez
New Mexico National Guard
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (7/6/11) – The New Mexico National Guard was activated June 26 by Gov. Susana Martinez to assist local law enforcement agencies within Los Alamos due to the Las Conchas fire.
The Las Conchas fire started on private property in Los Alamos County and quickly spread due to the extreme drought conditions of the entire state of New Mexico. Soon after fire crews realized the severity of the fire, they requested the assistance of many state and county agencies, to include the New Mexico National Guard.
Gov. Martinez ordered the Guard to assist emergency management agencies to brace for oncoming wildfires and to prepare the town of Los Alamos for possible evacuations.
The following day, a mandatory evacuation was ordered and the National Guard was an integral part of the evacuation effort by manning traffic control points and assisting citizens to leave in a very orderly and efficient manner.
According to Army Capt. Ben Soveranez, the officer in charge, Soldiers and Airmen manned traffic control points as well as conducting roving patrols along side of local and state law enforcement to ensure the residences and local businesses of Los Alamos were safe and secure.
“Our role as National Guardsmen is to assist the community in any way needed,” said Soveranez. “When the governor called us out it is part of our duty to come out here and assist the residents of Los Alamos.”
Guard members also assisted with the marking of all residences and identification of citizens left in the city to ensure local officials had an accurate accountability in the event of an imminent evacuation of all personnel in the city.
After the mandatory evacuation, Soldiers and Airmen were required to stop every non-emergency response vehicle to identify the occupants and their purpose for being in and around the city.
“We check to make sure they are DOD employees and that they are going to where they are suppose to be and not hindering the firefighters’ efforts,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Kenneth Griego, 150th Operation Group.
“If they are not authorized personnel we turn them around and direct them to an alternate route,” said Griego.
The Las Conchas fire burned at least 90,000 acres.
“We will be out here as long we need to be to ensure the community and the people of the community are safe,” said Soveranez.