Subj: Wildfire Strikes Near Another Nuclear Facility
Date: 7/28/00 5:21:35 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: (New Millennium)
To: (Newmill)

Jul 28, 2000 - 06:37 AM

Wildfire Strikes Near Another Nuclear Facility

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - The nation's worst fire season in four years
grew worse Friday as an 18,000-acre blaze near the Idaho National
Engineering and Environmental Laboratory forced hundreds of evacuations.

Some 1,800 employees were ordered out of three buildings at the
sprawling eastern Idaho complex as a precaution, said Jason Bohne, a lab
spokesman. There were no injuries.

No widespread damage has been reported at the 890-square-mile facility,
but Bohne said a small fire "went into" a reactor test area before it
was contained.

The blaze, which began Thursday and was fanned by 28-mph wind gusts, is
the third to threaten a facility with nuclear material in as many
months. Fire struck the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in
May and a huge fire swept across the Hanford nuclear reservation in
southeastern Washington last month.

Both raised concerns about the release of radioactive material, from
rain washing contaminated soil into New Mexico's streams to airborne
particles in Washington state. Federal officials have said there has
been no danger, though air samples showed an increased - but not harmful
- concentration of plutonium in public areas outside the Hanford
reservation. Idaho lab officials said tests were being performed.

There were also evacuations in California, where a fire has blackened
19,000 acres of the Sequoia National Forest, creeping up to several
homes on the forest's borders early Friday. More than 100 residents were
forced to evacuate the area 120 miles north of Los Angeles. No injuries
have been reported.

"This fire has shown extreme behavior," Forest Service spokesman Tony
Diffenbaugh said.

The fire season is the worst since 1996. More than 59,000 fires have
burned 3 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire
Center in Boise. Four years ago, the total was 3.1 million acres by this