New Mexico Fire Hits Los Alamos Lab

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

The wildfire that earlier forced a shutdown of the Los Alamos National Laboratory has entered an outdoor area called Technical Area 49. From Los Alamos National Laboratory by e-mail just now:

Las Conchas Fire Enters LANL Property; Lab Announces Closure for Tuesday, June 27
LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico June 27, 2011 Los Alamos National Laboratory emergency officials have announced that the Lab will remain closed on Tuesday, June 27, 2011 because of risks presented by the Las Conchas wild fire and the staged, mandatory evacuation of the Los Alamos town site. A one-acre spot fire was reported in Water Canyon, within Technical Area 49, on the Lab's southwestern boundary. Reports from the field say the fire has jumped to the north across New Mexico State Route 4. More details will follow as soon as they are available.

Technical area 49, contains few buildings. According to this watchdog group it is used primarily for training:

Currently, the Laboratory's Hazardous Devices Team uses the site as a training area and as an isolated location for blowing up suspect packages. The site is also the location of the Laboratory's Antenna and Pulse Power Outdoor Range User Facility, where a spectrum of outdoor tests is carried out on materials and equipment components that involve generating and receiving short bursts of high-energy, broad-spectrum microwaves. TA-49 is surrounded by a locked security fence, which prevents accidental intrusion. When experiments are conducted, personnel install barriers that exclude any individuals from access to areas where unsafe levels of energy could be encountered. In 1960 and 1961, a series of experiments involving high explosives and radioactive materials was conducted at the site.

See www.nmfireinfo.com for official fire updates, and follow #NMfire for twitter updates.

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