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N.M. fire expands amid powerful winds

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — A wildfire that has been chewing up thousands of acres of land every day in New Mexico grew larger Thursday as fire officials remained hopeful that they could halt the spread of the blaze before it reached the town of Los Alamos and its nuclear lab.

Firefighters seemed to be holding their own in the key fronts near the lab and town but saw the blaze flare up in isolated areas to the north. Their efforts on Thursday night in containing the fire in the face of powerful winds and the possibility of dry lightning will go a long way toward determining whether Los Alamos and the lab were in danger.

"Today is a good day for parts of this fire. It's a bad day for other parts of this fire. Our hearts go out to the folks that are suffering the bad part," Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker said.

The fire also burned through moisture-rich aspen trees above Los Alamos, allowing the fire to push into a canyon that descends from that mountain into town and runs past the old Manhattan Project site, where the first atomic bomb was developed during World War II.

That site is not on the property of the nearby Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory, which has been closed since Monday.

Residents of Los Alamos, who fled the town earlier in the week under an evacuation order, won't be allowed back home until Sunday at the earliest, Tucker said.

N.M. fire expands amid powerful winds 06/30/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 12:26am]

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