RUIDOSO, N.M. -- High winds were forecast today for parts of New Mexico where two fires have scorched more than 9,000 acres and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.
Winds died down on both fires, near Los Alamos in northern New Mexico and near the southern resort town of Ruidoso, but the National Weather Service said winds would rise again this afternoon and really get roaring Thursday, with gusts up to 50 mph expected in Los Alamos.
The Los Alamos fire grew to 3,700 acres late Tuesday and had burned to Los Alamos National Laboratory's property. The lab was closed for a third consecutive day today, as were Los Alamos schools and county offices.
Firefighters have quickly extinguished any spot fires that have popped up on lab property, lab spokesman Jim Danneskiold said today. He said the property around the lab closest to the fire was cleared of underbrush after a 1996 blaze.
''The fire is miles from any buildings containing any nuclear materials and those buildings are rated to survive severe fires, 747 crashes, those kinds of things. They're bunkers, basically,'' he said.
In smoke-shrouded Ruidoso, an estimated 135 evacuees from five flame-threatened subdivisions were still kept away from their homes Tuesday, fire information officer Karen Miranda said. The Ruidoso fire had grown to 5,700 acres, but winds were expected to be milder than in the Los Alamos area.
Evacuee Anthony Scruggs, 52, said he feared for his home in the Homestead subdivision.
''It's probably in one of the worst areas,'' he said. ''It seems to be the focal point of the fire, and I know they're doing all they can, but they can't control Mother Nature.''
As he spoke, air tankers carrying pink fire retardant and helicopters dangling huge buckets of water roared overhead. A helicopter filled its bucket in a lake at the 12th hole of the Kokopelli Country Club golf course, where Scruggs and three companions were playing a round Tuesday.
Scruggs said playing golf was better than sitting in a hotel room or at roadside, since he wasn't allowed back home.
''There's nothing I can do. It's in the hands of God and the firefighters,'' he said.
Diana Person said she, too, had to leave her new home in Ruidoso but was allowed to return late Monday.
''I came in, got a few things out of my home and got out,'' Person said Tuesday. ''A couple of house plants, some personal papers and photographs. I kissed the rest goodbye.''
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