Members give service in fire's wake

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Weeks after a fire ravaged their community May 10-12, Church members here are helping where they can — preparing for rain that could devastate an area which has little vegetation left to help divert or control flood water.

With other community members, LDS members on May 27 removed debris from culverts under roads to make room for flood water and broke up clay-hard soil so that it will absorb rain water.

On May 24, Forest Service officials contained the fire, which burned nearly 48,000 acres, caused the evacuation of 25,000 people and destroyed more than 260 homes in the city — including 12 member homes. The fire started May 4 as a controlled burn. No members or missionaries were injured by the blaze. (Please see story in May 20 Church News.)

H. Thomas Blair, second counselor in the Santa Fe New Mexico Stake, said members who lost homes in the fire are doing well. Most are staying with family or friends in Los Alamos, he said.

Church members from throughout New Mexico and elsewhere donated more food, clothing, bedding and toiletries than could be distributed, said President Blair. After the needs of local members were met, supplies were donated to the food bank, the Red Cross shelter and to the firemen.

"People have just been so generous," said President Blair, explaining that donations eventually had to be sent back. "It has been heartwarming to see the response."

He added that stakes in southern Colorado and throughout New Mexico have also offered to send volunteers to help clean the community. However, he said, there is not much volunteers can do currently.

Lawry Mann, chairman of the county council and a member of the Los Alamos Ward, said the county will contract much of the clean-up — which could include unstable structures or, in some cases, asbestos.

Like President Blair, he has seen members from numerous churches work together for the good of the community. After being evacuated from Los Alamos he stayed one night in a Red Cross shelter and then with a couple he had never met before. "They are now life-long friends," he said.

Brother Mann and other Church members are also planning to participate in future service projects, as community needs surface. He has already committed to spend another Saturday breaking up the charred soil so that it will absorb water — hoping to help prevent a second community disaster.

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