US wildfire closes Los Alamos nukes

2011-06-27 22:01

Los Alamos - A fast-moving wildfire forced officials at the nuclear laboratory in Los Alamos to close the site on Monday as more than 100 residents evacuated their homes.

Winds from the northwest overnight kept the blaze - which swelled to 176km² and was less than two kilometers southwest of the lab - from moving onto lab property. But forecasts called for a change in winds by midday.

The lab, which was founded during World War II to develop the world's first nuclear weapons, activated its emergency operations centre overnight and cut natural gas to some areas as a precaution. Officials said all hazardous and radioactive materials were being protected.

The lab was closed on Monday, and Los Alamos and White Rock were under voluntary evacuation orders. About 100 residents from the rural towns of Cochiti Mesa and Las Conchas were evacuated after the fire started on Sunday afternoon.

In nearby Santa Fe, emergency officials are preparing to provide emergency evacuation and are setting up a shelter.

The blaze started on private land about 17km southwest of the town of Los Alamos. Flames and smoke could be seen from the outskirts of Albuquerque, which is about 130km away.

The fire is nearly as big and similar to the Cerro Grande fire that burned more some 19 000ha - 189km² - in May 2000 and caused more than $1bn in property damage, destroying hundreds of homes and 100 buildings on lab property.

Meanwhile, the biggest blaze in Arizona history is 82% contained after burning through 217 720ha in the White Mountains in northeast Arizona. The fire started May 29 and has destroyed 32 homes. It's believed to have been caused by a camp fire.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  nuclear  |  fires
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