June 27, 2011, Los Alamos, NM: A smoke Plume from the Las Conchas forest fire rises over the Jemez Mountains , New Mexico. The Los Alamos National Laboratory is closed. Los Alamos residents were evacuated today because of the fire.
The Las Conchas forest fire threatens the town of Los Alamos and Los Alamos National Laboratory, America's foremost nuclear research facility. 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.