RUIDOSO, N.M. -- Hundreds of people were forced to flee as one of two large wildfires burning in New Mexico swept within a few feet of their homes and spread across more than 5,000 acres.
''It burned right up to their back yard and backdoor steps,'' firefighter Tyner Cervantes said Monday in this south-central New Mexico resort town. ''It burned down some wooden fences and a flatbed trailer, but we didn't lose a single house.''
A second blaze 200 miles to the northwest has forced the evacuation of at least 500 homes and virtually shut down the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Lab officials have said explosives and nuclear material were in fire-safe structures.
The lab, as well as Los Alamos County schools and offices, were closed for a second straight day today. No major injuries have been reported.
The Los Alamos fire had been set to clear underbrush at a national monument but got out of control, charring more than 3,000 acres. It was about a mile away from the nearest homes Monday as it burned across several canyons at the foot of the Jemez Mountains.
''We're going to stay as long as we can,'' said Bill Redmond, a former congressman who lives in Los Alamos. ''We have ash all over our vehicle and everything in our yard.''
Officials say this fire season could rival the one in 1996, almost 17,000 acres burned near Los Alamos.
''The state is a tinderbox,'' Gov. Gary Johnson said in declaring a state of emergency Monday. ''This is a huge wakeup call.''
Cooler weather Monday and weaker wind Monday night and this morning helped firefighters battling the blaze at Los Alamos.
''The weather's been pretty good -- there haven't been any real strong winds,'' Bernie Pleau, a U.S. Department of Energy spokesman also serving as a fire spokesman, said today.
The fire, which Pleau said has cost $800,000 so far, was set Thursday by the National Park Service to get rid of excess underbrush and deadwood at the Bandelier National Monument, home of ancient Indian ruins and 70 miles of hiking trails.
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