LOS ALAMOS, N.M.—A fast-moving wildfire forced officials at the nuclear laboratory in Los Alamos to close the site Monday as more than 100 residents evacuated their homes.
Winds from the northwest overnight kept the blaze—which swelled to 68 square miles and was just a mile southwest of the lab—from moving onto lab property. But forecasts called for a change in winds by midday.
The lab, which was founded during World War II to develop the world's first nuclear weapons, activated its emergency operations center overnight and cut natural gas to some areas as a precaution. Officials said all hazardous and radioactive materials were being protected.
The lab was closed Monday, and Los Alamos and White Rock were under voluntary evacuation orders. About 100 residents from the rural towns of Cochiti Mesa and Las Conchas were evacuated after the fire started Sunday afternoon. In nearby Santa Fe, emergency officials are preparing to provide emergency evacuation and are setting up a shelter.
The blaze started on private land about 12 miles southwest of the town of Los Alamos. Flames and smoke could be seen from the outskirts of Albuquerque, which is about 80 miles away.
The fire is nearly as big and eerily similar to the Cerro Grande fire that burned more some 47,000 acres—73 square miles—in May 2000 and caused more than $1 billion in property damage, destroying hundreds of homes and 100 buildings on lab property.
Meanwhile, the biggest blaze in Arizona history is 82% contained after burning through 538,000 acres in the White Mountains in northeast Arizona. The fire started May 29 and has destroyed 32 homes. It's believed to have been caused by a campfire.
And in Colorado, about 100 firefighters are battling a wildfire that broke out in a canyon northwest of Boulder.
Fire officials have put 340 homeowners on standby to evacuate. No structures are immediately threatened by the fire.
In Southern Colorado, hot, windy weather has caused a wildfire that's been burning since June 12 to spread. The Duckett fire grew by about 400 acres over the weekend but it's not threatening any homes. Most of the growth has been in a steep, rugged terrain in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.