Los Alamos, NM, 30 June 2011: The Las Conchas fire continues to burn toward the westside of Los Alamos as fire creeps down Cerro Rubio Mountain in the Jemez Mountains west of Santa Fe.
The Las Conchas forest fire threatens the town of Los Alamos and Los Alamos National Laboratory, America's foremost nuclear research facility. Resident were evacuated on Monday, June 27 and the National Laboratory is closed. There are concerns for hazard waste becoming airborne if incinerated by the fire. Los Alamos is the birthplace of the atomic age which started with the Manhattan Project in WWII leading to Japan's surrender. The Las Conchas fire is one of eight forest fires ravaging New Mexico and the second one to threaten Los Alamos in 11 years, the first being the Cerro Grande fire.
A downed tree and power line along with extreme drought conditions are blamed for the origin of this fast moving and devastating fire. Around 1:00 pm Sunday, June 26, 2011 an aspen tree was blown down by intense winds onto a power line which ignited the tree, broke the power line and ignited the surrounding forest. The fire started roughly 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos near the Las Conchas trailhead on private property near highway marker 35 on State Road 4.