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CNN Today

Winds Picking Up to Dismay of Firefighters in New Mexico

Aired May 15, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Firefighters in New Mexico are getting a break from the weather today, and they're struggling to take advantage of it before their luck runs out. The 44,000-acre firestorm that devastated Los Alamos still is only 28 percent contained.

CNN's Martin Savidge brings us up to date from Los Alamos -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, that break you mentioned may be over for firefighters. The winds have now started to pick up, in fact they've picked up significantly since the last time we spoke to you. And those wind speeds are expected to increase throughout the day today and get even stronger tomorrow.

There was a news briefing that was held by fire-fighting officials about an hour ago. They report that the threat to the community of Los Alamos has been greatly diminished but they cannot say that the threat has gone away completely. They say that the fire, the Sierra Grande fire as they refer to it here, is about 28 percent contained. A report that if this wind kicks up any smoke or flame inside of the community, they are going to attack those fires very vigorously.

They say right now they've got about 1200 firefighters working in the wild lands and another 300 or so other firefighters working in the community of Los Alamos itself. They also report that there are now 235 structures that are confirmed destroyed as a result of the fire that burned through here several days ago.

Yesterday the cost of battling this fire exceeded $5 million. It is very expensive business fighting these flames. And there is a concern among the residents in this community even though they are evacuated, as to what may be in the air. Specifically what could be coming from the Los Alamos lab. It stores a great deal of nuclear material as well as other hazardous chemicals and materials.

The EPA last night, says it set up a ring of monitoring stations. What they refer to is low volume air samplers that are collecting samples of the air on a 24 hour basis and they will be reporting to the public as soon as they get any information if there is any possible threat. They have said up to this point there is none. But the big concern is the winds, tomorrow they could be up to 50 miles an hour. Very similar conditions to the day when this fire exploded -- Lou. WATERS: All right, Marty Savidge in Los Alamos.

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