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Los Alamos officials plan for return of residents

Amid smoldering brush, firefighting vehicles drive along the bottom of Los Alamos Canyon on Friday in New Mexico.

Associated Press

Amid smoldering brush, firefighting vehicles drive along the bottom of Los Alamos Canyon on Friday in New Mexico.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Officials at the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratory and in the surrounding northern New Mexico town began planning Friday for the return of thousands of residents and employees as firefighters held their ground on the flank of the massive wildfire, the largest in state history.

Authorities didn't give a timetable for when they would lift the 5-day-old evacuation order for the town of Los Alamos, normally home to 12,000 residents. But some county workers were back to prepare for the eventual rush of utility service calls.

Officials also worried that flames were damaging Native American cultural sites at pueblos near the Los Alamos National Laboratory. But officials were confident the blaze no longer posed an immediate threat to the lab

"I anticipate that we are going to be able to bring the laboratory back up in a way that's smooth and continues to maintain the safety and security that we're responsible for," lab director Charles McMillan said.

Joe Reinarz, a fire official who had also worked at one of the large Arizona wildfires this season, said that the fire did not grow significantly on Friday and that containment lines were holding but were no guarantee.

The challenge Friday was stopping the flames from doing more damage to the lands of Santa Clara Pueblo, 7 miles away. Pueblo residents have been devastated by the news coming in from the front lines of the firefighting: forest resources lost and plants and animals that the pueblo's 2,800 residents depend on gone, Santa Clara Pueblo Gov. Walter Dasheno said.

The fire has blackened more than 162 square miles in the last six days, making it the largest in New Mexico history.

Los Alamos officials plan for return of residents 07/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 2, 2011 12:33am]
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