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US: 'One Thing After Another': Floods Threaten Blaze-Ravaged New Mexico

The Las Conchas fire
© Roberto Rosales / Albuquerque Journal via AP
The Las Conchas fire near the town of Los Alamos, N.M. is still smoldering in the distance on Monday afternoon, July 4.
Santa Fe, New Mexico - As firefighters made progress saving Indian pueblo lands on the north end of New Mexico's largest wildfire, officials worried on Monday about a possible second punch from Mother Nature - flash floods.

The fast-burning Las Conchas fire exploded on the scene a week ago, triggering the temporary evacuation of the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory. It has since charred more than 123,500 acres, the biggest torching of the state's lands in history.

But forecasters say seasonal rains are finally showing up across the tinder-dry Southwest, moving toward New Mexico.

"We've gone straight from fire danger to flood danger, so it's one thing after another," said a frustrated Jason Lott, superintendent of the Bandelier National Monument, a revered ancestral home of New Mexico's pueblo Indian natives.

Bell

US: Crews Gain Fighting New Mexico Wildfire, Now Fear Floods

Image
© Reuters
Charred forest smolders from the Las Conchas Fire near Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Santa Fe - As firefighters made progress saving Indian pueblo lands on the north end of New Mexico's largest wildfire, officials worried on Monday about a possible second punch from Mother Nature -- flash floods.

The fast-burning Las Conchas fire exploded on the scene a week ago, triggering the temporary evacuation of the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory. It has since charred more than 123,500 acres, the biggest torching of the state's lands in history.

But forecasters say seasonal rains are finally showing up across the tinder-dry Southwest, moving toward New Mexico.

"We've gone straight from fire danger to flood danger, so it's one thing after another," said a frustrated Jason Lott, superintendent of the Bandelier National Monument, a revered ancestral home of New Mexico's pueblo Indian natives.

Lott said more than 50 percent of the park, which consists of a total of 33,750 acres, has already been scorched by the Las Conchas blaze, although the visitors center, historic lodge and the ancient Tyounyi Pueblo ruins have been spared.

Those same structures, however, may now be threatened by flash floods expected with the state's monsoon season.

"It could be tomorrow, or in a couple weeks," Lott said.

Extinguisher

Los Alamos Fire: More Firefighters Deploy in New Mexico, US

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© BBC
Officials from the Los Alamos National Laboratory say dangerous materials are safely stored

Hundreds more firefighters have been deployed to battle a wildfire near a top US nuclear weapons research lab in New Mexico amid concerns the blaze could reach radioactive waste.

Nearby residents have expressed concern about potential contamination if flames reach barrels stored outside.

But officials are confident the fire will not reach the drums and they say dangerous materials are safely stored.

The town outside Los Alamos National Laboratory was evacuated on Monday.

The laboratory has been closed since then and is not expected to open until Friday at the earliest, officials said.

The Las Conchas fire has now burned 110 sq miles (284.9 sq km), fuelled by dry timber and powered by strong winds. Smoke from the blaze can be seen as far away as Albuquerque 60 miles (100km) away.

Nuke

Los Alamos Fire: Environmental Protection Agency Testing for Radiation

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© Associated Press

The Las Conchas fire burns near the Los Alamos Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M., Tuesday, June 28, 2011.
The wildfire that surrounds the nuclear lab in Los Alamos, N.M., has grown to at least 61,000 acres amid mounting concerns about what might be in the smoke that's visible from space.

Such fear has prompted fire crews to set their own fires along the perimeter of the lab. So far, the strategy is working. The first air samples show lots of smoke, but no signs of elevated radiation.

"Those results show that what we see in this fire is exactly what we see in any fire across New Mexico," said Charles McMillan, the lab's director.

Environmental officials aren't taking any chances. The Environmental Protection Agency is bringing in dozens of air monitors all around the state, along with a special airplane that takes instant radiation samples. So far, officials have not been able to find anything amiss.

"Our facilities and nuclear material are protected and safe," McMillan told ABC News.

Phoenix

US: Wildfire shuts Los Alamos lab, forces evacuations in New Mexico

wildfire
© AP/Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican
Smoke fills the sky from a wildfire in New Mexico about 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos, on June 26, 2011. A fast-moving wildfire has broken out in New Mexico and forced officials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to close the site Monday as residents nearby evacuate their homes.
Thousands of residents calmly fled Monday from the mesa-top town that's home to the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory, ahead of an approaching wildfire that sent up towering plumes of smoke, rained down ash and sparked a spot fire on lab property where scientists 50 years ago conducted underground tests of radioactive explosives.

Los Alamos National Laboratory officials said that the spot fire was soon contained and no contamination was released. They also assured that radioactive materials stored in various spots elsewhere on the sprawling lab were safe from flames.

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 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.'"

Phoenix

US: Wildfire threatens Los Alamos National-Security Research Facility

The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will be closed Monday as fire crews battle a wildfire raging nearby, a statement on the facility's website said.


"All laboratory facilities will be closed for all activities and nonessential employees are directed to remain off site," the statement said. "Employees are considered nonessential and should not report to work unless specifically directed by their line managers."

A spokesman for the New Mexico State Forestry Division, however, told CNN the order to evacuate Los Alamos was voluntary, and stressed that there is no immediate threat to the facility.

Phoenix

Firefighters put out 3 forest fires in Russia's Far East in past 24 hours

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© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Fomichev
Firefighters put out 3 forest fires in Russia's Far East in past 24 hours
Firefighters and rescuers in Russia's Far East extinguished three forest fires over the past 24 hours and continue battling 11 more forest fires, a spokesman for the regional emergencies ministry said on Sunday.

"Satellite monitoring and aircraft surveillance registered a total of 14 forest fires in the last 24 hours. Three of them covering an area 43 hectares were extinguished," the spokesman said.

He added that the remaining 11 wildfires had spread over the area of 519 hectares.

Cloud Lightning

US: A Spring of Extremes like no other - Weather Events Unprecedented, Scientists Say

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© Unknown
Washington - Tornadoes, floods, wildfires, snowmelt, thunderstorms, drought - for Americans, it was a spring to remember.

Government weather researchers said yesterday that, while similar extremes have occurred throughout modern American history, never before have they occurred in a single month, as they did in April.

The last time anything remotely like it happened was the spring of 1927, which also had many tornadoes and flooding, said Harold Brooks of the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma.

Phoenix

US: High heat, strong winds still threaten Western wildfires

Albuquerque, New Mexico - Gusty winds and high temperatures are hampering firefighters trying to protect homes, a popular national park and tinder dry patches of forest from several wildfires burning throughout the Southwest.

Bizarro Earth

US: Wildfire evacuations grow near Arizona city

New areas under threat after 1,700 homes were cleared out
Image
© Greg Bryan/Arizona Daily Star via AP
Fire crews mop up a hot spot outside Sierra Vista, Ariz., on Friday
Another afternoon flare-up of the fire outside Sierra Vista, Ariz., was expected Friday, triggering new evacuations a day after 1,700 homes were cleared out.

The wildfire in southern Arizona's Coronado National Forest is within a few miles of Sierra Vista, population 40,000, and has destroyed or damaged at least 47 homes and 10 other structures over 18,000 acres.

The number of firefighters deployed has grown to nearly 800, and soldiers from a nearby Army base were being trained to battle the fire should it enter the base.

Officials on Thursday closed off a 12-mile stretch of State Route 92 due to the conditions from the Monument fire. One county official driving along a still open section of SR 92 said he saw flames as tall as 40 feet on either side of the highway Thursday afternoon.

Police and fire officials used sirens and speakers to exhort residents in the unincorporated area of about 3,200 homes to flee, azcentral.com reported.

Many people trying to flee were caught in traffic jams as roadblocks impeded their progress, azcentral.com reported.