Fire evacuation lifted in Los Alamos, N.M.

July 3, 2011 at 11:12 AM
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LOS ALAMOS, N.M., July 3 (UPI) -- New Mexico police Sunday gave the green light for Los Alamos residents to return home as the threat of a stubborn wildfire eased.

The Los Conchas fire had grown to more than 121,000 acres by Sunday but officials reported their fire lines protecting the community and its nuclear laboratory were being solidified.

Police Chief Wayne Torpy said in a written statement Sunday that while the approximately 12,000 residents evacuated last week could head home, they should be prepared for crowded roads and smoke in the air and should stay put once they arrived.

"We urge residents, to be patient, to be aware that public safety and other workers are still engaged in recovery efforts," Torpy said.

Recovery efforts were getting under way at the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory. Lab Director Charles McMillan told the Albuquerque Journal that employees had started booting up computer systems and taking care of chores such as cleaning air-filtration equipment.

"We've now assessed the risk at the lab to be lower, and so we're able to change the status based on that assessment," said McMillan. "What this means for us at the laboratory is that we've moved our staff from focusing on the emergency to now being focused on the recovery."

Indian tribes in the area were also assessing the damage done by the fire to various sites that are either sacred or of archaeological significance. Although a lot of forest land was lost, it appeared the ancient pueblo dwellings in the area around Santa Fe were unscathed.

"This is a fire like we've never seen before," Santa Carla Pueblo Gov. Walter Dasheno told the Los Angeles Times.

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