A nuclear reactor, threatened by flames, looks to the future of forest fires

A nuclear reactor, threatened by flames, looks to the future of forest fires

As a tenacious wildfire advanced within a few miles of the city of Los Alamos and its accompanying U.S. national security lab — where evaluating catastrophic threats is a specialty and wildland fire is a beguiling equation — public schools were closed and evacuation bags were prepared this week.

A nuclear reactor, threatened by flames, looks to the future of forest fires

At a Santa Fe National Forest briefing Friday evening, fire operations chief Todd Abel stated, “We had all kinds of aviation flying today.” “It’s been a long time since we’ve had that opportunity.”

On Friday, lighter winds allowed for the most intense aircraft attack this week on the flames west of Santa Fe, as well as the largest US wildfire raging further east, south of Taos.

In Southern California, where a fire has destroyed at least 20 homes south of Los Angeles in the coastal community of Laguna Niguel, Orange County emergency officials scaled back the mandatory evacuation area Friday from 900 residences to 131.

 

People who remained on alert to prepare for evacuations west of Santa Fe included scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory who are tapping supercomputers to peer into the future of wildfires in the U.S. West, where climate change and an enduring drought are fanning the frequency and intensity of forest and grassland fire.

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