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Press conference offers hope

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By Carol A. Clark

Today’s press conference gave a lot of hope to those looking for something to hold on to during the Las Canchos Fire that is threatening Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“I would like to get everybody back in their homes by the end of this week – but this a big hope,” said Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker during a news conference Today at Ashley Pond.

“The good news is that as of right now at 11:55 a.m. today — it is a good day. We have not lost any structures and there are no injuries. And that is the best we could hope for.”

Tucker said the two canyons that are at most risk are Los Alamos Canyon and Pajarito Canyon because there are filled with fuels that were not burned during Cerro Grande Fire in 2000.

Tucker said he will know more on the status of the fire situation by 6 p.m. when he holds another press conference, this time at Pojoaque High School gymnasium.

When asked about the possible cause of the fire, Tucker said he believed it was a downed power line.

“I flew overhead to review the fire area,” Tucker said. “The rumor that the fire was caused by somebody burning trash was not true. It appears to be a downed power line.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall spoke at the press conference, saying the federal government will pick up 75 percent of the cost of the fighting the fire.

Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy is working with the National Guard on a repopulation plan.

“The moment we have an all clear, we will be prepared to bring you all home,” Torpy said.

Barbara Wood of the postal service in Albuquerque also spoke, saying Los Alamos residents can pick up their mail at the Pojoaque High School gymnasium but they must bring identification. Wood said they can pick up mail between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday until further notice.

The White Rock Post Office is open and mail is being delivered to residents there as usual.

Acting County Administrator Randy Autio said repopulating Los Alamos will not be as difficult as it was during the Cerro Grande Fire because they are not turning off anybody’s utilities.

Council Chair Sharon Stover said the county council has set up an information center staffed until 10 p.m. daily. For those seeking information about the fire, call 662-8333.

Gov. Susana Martinez made a plea to New Mexicans not to purchase fireworks under any circumstances this year.

“We cannot afford a new fire in New Mexico,” she said. “I am urging New Mexicans do not use fireworks. Be a good patriot and go to a public display on the Fourth of July.”

Also attending the press conference were councils Fran Berting, Geoffrey Rodgers, Ron Selvage, Mike Wismer and new state Rep. Jim Hall.

See a slideshow from today's press conference at lamonitor.com.