Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Residents' Efforts Saved Some Homes.

Byline: Ian Hoffman Journal Staff Writer

Cerro Grande Fire Attacked on Ground

As apologetic lawmakers foot a $661 million bill for the Cerro Grande Fire, scientists and firefighters suggest blame for the year's most devastating blaze does not lie solely with the federal government.

Many people of Los Alamos, a town boasting one of the nation's most highly educated populations, ignored some of the common-sense responsibilities that are entwined with the romance of living in the pine woods, according to federal and local fire experts.

They let twigs, pine needles and trees mount around homes that, more often than not, were built of materials poorly suited to resist fire.

"If people had just done housekeeping around their houses in Los Alamos, I think we would have seen considerably less destruction," said Jack Cohen, a leading researcher for the U.S. Forest Service Fire Science Laboratory in Missoula, Mont. …

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