Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thousands in N.M. town ordered to evacuate in face of approaching wildfire

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Authorities ordered Los Alamos evacuated yesterday as a fast-growing and unpredictable wildfire bore down on the northern New Mexico town and its sprawling nuclear laboratory.

The blaze that began Sunday had already destroyed an unspecified number of houses south of the town, which is home to about 12,000 residents. It also forced the closure of the nation's preeminent nuclear lab while stirring memories of a devastating blaze more than a decade ago that destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings in the area.

"The hair on the back of your neck goes up,'' Los Alamos County fire chief Doug Tucker said of first seeing the fire in the Santa Fe National Forest on Sunday. "I saw that plume and I thought, 'Oh my God, here we go again.' ''

Tucker said the blaze that grew to more than 68 square miles overnight was the most active fire he had seen in his career, forcing residents near Cochiti Mesa and Las Conchas to flee with "nothing but the shirts on their back.''

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