Inferno by Committee tells the story of America’s worst prescribed fire disaster, the Cerro Grande Fire of 2000 which burned 250 homes in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
The fire started with a National Park Service prescribed fire that went out of control and ended up burning 42,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest.
A thorough review of the investigations of the fire and the policy changes that resulted from this seminal event in American fire history are also an integral part of this examination.
Prescribing fire on the landscape involves risk. Sometimes, as with the Cerro Grande Fire, the risk taken results in disaster. For land managers, there really is no option but to prescribe fire and take risk—to restore fire to a landscape where fire is native and necessary for the survival of biological systems.
Cerro Grande showed us both the consequences of taking a risk with fire and more dramatically, the consequences of avoiding that risk.