Subj: LOS ALAMOS
Date: 5/10/00 4:19:20 AM Pacific Daylight Time
Heres a couple of new stories on Los Alamos fire..thought you might be
able to use them..
Maybe the elementals are fighting back......
Wildfire Keeps Los Alamos Nuclear Lab Closed
By Zelie Pollon
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (Reuters) - Firefighters used bulldozers to clear
swaths of forest on Tuesday in a major push to seal off a forest fire
that kept a major U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory closed and threatened
a nearby town.
Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the world's first atomic bomb was
created in 1945, was closed for a second straight day as the Cerro
Grande fire raged just across a highway from one section of the
sprawling facility. Officials said the laboratory would be closed again
The fire, which has raged for five days after being sparked
inadvertently by the U.S. Forest Service, also posed a danger to the
neighboring town of Los Alamos.
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More than 600 firefighters burned brush ahead of the blaze and cleared
swaths of forest with bulldozers to deprive the fire of new fuel in an
effort to ring the wildfire with a burn-free zone before weather
conditions worsen, as they are forecast to do on Wednesday.
``We're calling today the big push,'' said Fire Information Officer Jim
``Tomorrow (Wednesday) we're expecting bigger winds, higher temperatures
and lower humidity so the time to get this fire is now,'' Paxon added.
Only a skeleton staff of 500 people out of a work force of close to
12,000 remained at the Los Alamos laboratory, which covers 43 square
miles (112 square km) in the sparsely settled Juarez Mountains of
northern New Mexico.
High Explosives Said To Be Safe
Officials said the laboratory's high explosives and plutonium were
safely sealed in fireproof steel and concrete bunkers.
The plutonium facility is ``miles away'' from the wildfire and the area
around it has been cleared of trees and other combustible material,
laboratory director John Browne said.
Firefighters were holding the blaze at a standstill along Highway 501,
which borders the laboratory's western edge.
Some of the U.S. government's most-secret nuclear weapons research has
been conducted at Los Alamos. But its role of developing nuclear weapons
changed in the 1990s when the United States stopped nuclear testing, and
now the facility's main charge is to ensure that the nuclear weapons
stockpile stays in working order.
Browne said this was the first time the laboratory had been closed due
to a forest fire.
With 3,365 acres (1,362 hectares) already consumed, Paxon said he
expected several more thousand acres (hectares) would be gone by the end
of the day due to preventive burning.
``We have to seal this fire off and keep it from crossing Los Alamos
canyon. Otherwise, it'll burn right into the city site,'' he said.
The town of Los Alamos, which borders the lab, has evacuated 500 homes
on the west side of town and closed schools due to heavy smoke.
The fire began last Thursday when fires deliberately set to clear scrub
bush in Bandelier National Monument, the site of ancient Pueblo Indian
cliff dwellings, burned out of control as winds picked up to 40 mph (64
U.S. Forest Service officials have defended their decision to burn
underbrush, saying it was carefully planned and a necessary tool for
Gov. Gary Johnson on Monday declared a state of emergency for Los Alamos
and counties in southern New Mexico where another wildfire has scorched
5,400 acres (2,160 hectares) and destroyed three homes.
No serious injuries have been reported in either fire.
Fire Rages on in New Mexico
By PETE HERRERA, Associated Press Writer
RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) -- High winds were forecast today for parts of New
Mexico where two fires have scorched more than 9,000 acres and forced
hundreds of people to flee their homes.
Winds died down on both fires, near Los Alamos in northern New Mexico
and near the southern resort town of Ruidoso, but the National Weather
Service said winds would rise again this afternoon and really get
roaring Thursday, with gusts up to 50 mph expected in Los Alamos.
The Los Alamos fire grew to 3,700 acres late Tuesday and had burned to
Los Alamos National Laboratory's property line. The lab was closed for a
third consecutive day today, as were Los Alamos schools and county
In smoke-shrouded Ruidoso, an estimated 135 evacuees from five
flame-threatened subdivisions were still kept away from their homes
Tuesday, fire information officer Karen Miranda said. The Ruidoso fire
had grown to 5,700 acres, but winds were expected to be milder than in
the Los Alamos area.
Evacuee Anthony Scruggs, 52, said he feared for his home in the
''It's probably in one of the worst areas,'' he said. ''It seems to be
the focal point of the fire, and I know they're doing all they can, but
they can't control Mother Nature.''
As he spoke, air tankers carrying pink fire retardant and helicopters
dangling huge buckets of water roared overhead. A helicopter filled its
bucket in a lake at the 12th hole of the Kokopelli Country Club golf
course, where Scruggs and three companions were playing a round Tuesday.
Scruggs said playing golf was better than sitting in a hotel room or at
roadside, since he wasn't allowed back home.
''There's nothing I can do. It's in the hands of God and the
firefighters,'' he said.
Diana Person said she, too, had to leave her new home in Ruidoso but was
allowed to return late Monday.
''I came in, got a few things out of my home and got out,'' Person said
Tuesday. ''A couple of house plants, some personal papers and
photographs. I kissed the rest goodbye.''
The investigation into who set the campfire that started the Ruidoso
blaze continues, Miranda said. The Los Alamos fire was started last week
by the National Park Service to clear brush at the nearby Bandelier
The cost of fighting the Los Alamos fire was estimated Tuesday night at
$1.1 million, fire officials said, while the Ruidoso firefighting cost
was placed at $650,000.