Wildfire prompts closure of Los Alamos lab

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., June 27 (UPI) -- A nearby wildfire forced the closure Monday of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Officials said the lab's hazardous materials were protected.

"All laboratory facilities will be closed for all activities and non-essential employees are directed to remain off-site," said a posting on the facility's Web site. "Employees are considered non-essential and should not report to work unless specifically directed by their line managers."


Officials said the fire was reported to be less than a mile from the lab's southwestern boundaries late Sunday, CNN reported. The lab is about 35 miles from Santa Fe.

Special crews were sent to Water Canyon near the lab to protect the facility.

All radioactive and hazardous material had been accounted for and protected, officials said.

The wildfire, which is not contained, had burned between 4,000 acres and 6,000 acres, The Los Alamos Monitor reported.

County officials asked residents in Los Alamos and White Rock to voluntarily leave. Cochiti Mesa, Las Conchas, Bandelier National Monument and campgrounds near the fire have been evacuated, the Monitor reported.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez ordered the National Guard to Los Alamos County to help with evacuations.


Charles McMillan, Los Alamos lab director, said the facility deployed crews and heavy equipment to help county and federal firefighting crews.

"They have our complete cooperation. Our emergency response capabilities are fully mobilized," McMillan said. "I'm asking all our employees to stay clear of the lab so the fire crews can do their jobs."

In Arizona, the Monument fire has burned 57 homes and more than 29,000 acres.

As of Sunday, the blaze was 75 percent contained.

Some areas within the Monument fire perimeter and in the surrounding region have been designated "no drop zones," where firefighters were encouraged not to disperse fire retardant if there are other areas where a retardant drop would be equally effective in slowing the blaze.

Two nature conservancies are near the fire, officials said. The Ramsey Canyon preserve houses as many as 14 species of hummingbirds and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation is a crucial stop for millions of migrating birds and home to more than 100 butterfly species.

Southern Arizona's other major wildfire, the Horseshoe Two, was fully contained Saturday after scorching nearly 223,000 acres.

Officials said the massive Wallow fire in the northeastern part of the state was 77 percent contained Sunday, having burned more than 538,000 acres.


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