Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wildfire threatens US nuclear laboratory

Wildfire threatens US nuclear laboratory

LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO: Firefighters battled a vicious wildfire that was spreading Tuesday through the mountains above the northern New Mexico town that is home to a government nuclear laboratory. The wildfire, which began Sunday, had destroyed 30 structures south and west of Los Alamos by early Monday and forced the closure of the lab while stirring memories of a devastating blaze in May 2000 that destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings.

The ominous orange glow was visible at night from deserted Trinity Drive in Los Alamos, from which 12,500 residents were evacuated. The evacuation was so calm and orderly that there wasn t even a traffic accident, police chief Wayne Torpy said. A crew that had been working at the Arizona wildfires took over efforts at the New Mexico fire on Monday, about 18 hours after theblaze started. It has quickly grown to 44,000 acres or 68 square miles (176 square kilometers) and ignited a spotfire on lab property.

Another firefighting team was expected to arrive Tuesday because of the potential for the blaze to more than double in size. Los Alamos laboratory officials said the wildfire sparkeda spot fire on its property that was soon contained Monday, andno contamination was released. They also assured that radioactive materials stored in spots on the sprawling lab were safe. Flames were just across the road from the southern edge of the famed lab, where scientists developed the first atomic bomb during World War II.

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