SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - Voluntary evacuations have been issued for Los Alamos, including the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is threatened by a fast-moving wildfire that broke out in northern New Mexico on Sunday, authorities said.
The Las Conchas Fire flared early Sunday afternoon around 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos, charring about 3,500 acres and endangering the nation's nuclear weapons laboratory and its surrounding communities, said Lawrence Lujan, a spokesman for the Santa Fe National Forest.
"We have homes and we have the labs, so it's a very, very big concern, not only locally but nationally and globally," Lujan said.
"This fire is very complex. We have a national type one team coming in because of the nature of the fire," he said.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has ordered the New Mexico National Guard to Los Alamos to provide support for the ongoing efforts to protect lives, property and critical infrastructure threatened by the fire.
"My administration will make every effort to provide support for local emergency response crews," said Governor Martinez.
"With evacuations in place and the fire burning quickly, it is important that residents in the surrounding communities remain attentive to the local emergency operations' alerts and orders," she added.
Martinez said she had requested that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issue a Fire Management Assistance Declaration for the Las Conchas Fire to provide further assistance.
The blaze continued to throw flames a half mile ahead of the fire pushed by high winds and hot dry conditions. It remained zero percent contained late Sunday.
Bandelier National Monument has been evacuated, as have the communities of Cochiti Mesa and Las Conchas. Voluntary evacuations have been issued for Los Alamos and nearby community White Rock.
Jeff Berger, a spokesman for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the world's first atomic bomb was developed, said the fire was rapidly advancing but had not yet reached lab property.
Los Conchas fire spreads to over 43,000 acres
In less than 24 hours the Los Conchas fire burning in Los Alamos County has grown from a couple thousand acres to over 43,000 acres.
The blaze broke out around 1 p.m. Sunday, about 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos near Highway 4 and is said to have burned 43,597 acres by Monday morning.
In 2000 the historic El Cerro Grande Fire burned 47,000 acres but took nearly two weeks to grow to that size.
The fast moving blaze moved within a mile of Los Alamos National Laboratory overnight but officials say as of Monday there was no fire on lab property.
The lab cut natural gas to some areas overnight as a precaution and officials say all hazardous and radioactive materials are being protected.
On Sunday officials decided to close the lab Monday and issue a voluntary evacuation for all of Los Alamos County.