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Winds Kick Up Wildfires in New Mexico but Los Alamos Past Most DangerAired May 16, 2000 - 2:05 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Today's weather report in Los Alamos calls for higher winds.
CNN's Martin Savidge is with us now with the latest on the wildfires, which have plagued the city for nearly two weeks.
Martin, we can see it's windy there.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, wind is the key word, it is also the key caution for firefighters today. This is going to be a day that truly puts all their efforts to the test. The winds, as predicted almost by clockwork, did begin to accelerate here in the fire zone starting at 10:00 local time and they continued to strengthen throughout the day.
Right now the winds are blowing out of the southwest at about 10 miles an hour, however there are wind gusts that take it up to 20. But here is the real concern: This is what they call a "red flag" day. It's expected that later today the winds will become sustained at 30 to 40 miles per hour with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. Firefighters say and have maintained throughout that this is a wind- driven fire and what it essentially does with the accelerated winds is turn a blaze into a blow torch.
Meanwhile here in Los Alamos, this continues to be moving day for many families, families moving back home. The evacuation order for 80 percent of the community was lifted last night. But a lot of people waited until today before they began streaming back into the community, once more returning life to what was essentially a ghost town. As they go back though, they find that it's not as easy as they thought.
For many of them, getting home brings mixed emotions.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): The people of Los Alamos are going home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told us at one time this whole area had burned down. Thankfully, it didn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a long few days. God, it's been terrible. SAVIDGE: Linda and Harry Williams excitedly explore their house like the day they first bought it over 30 years ago. He goes inside. She heads for the garden.
All across this community, life returns after days of flames and fear one driveway at a time. They are the lucky ones. Their homes survived, and though they dreamed of this moment, their first thoughts are of those people whose homes have been lost.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are going to need everybody's support, everybody's love. And I'll be there for them.
SAVIDGE: Across town, the Neils (ph) are home with their two children, two dogs and four cats.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't think it was really going to happen, so I didn't take anything like pictures or anything like that. Luckily, our house didn't burn because I wouldn't have had anything that had memories for me.
SAVIDGE: Ironically, for all of these people, going home was all they thought about during the evacuation. Now that they are home, they find themselves thinking of much more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It helps some people recognize that, you know, it's the people that are important, rather than the things that we own.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I just like to be home because I really missed everything in my house.
SAVIDGE: Each person we talked to said they were fearful of what they might find when they did get home. Instead, they found their houses just the same. It's themselves that are forever changed.
SAVIDGE: The fire-fighting effort for now is focused in one particular canyon, Santa Clara Canyon that is located just to the north of Los Alamos. They are trying to keep the fire contained there for two reasons: number one, there are a number of ruins that are sacred to Native Americans they are trying to protect; number two, if that fire were to get out of the canyon, there is a lot of fuel waiting on the other side that could allow this fire to burn, as one firefighter put it, all the way to Colorado.
Reporting live, Martin Savidge, CNN, Los Alamos, New Mexico.
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