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Paxson: New Mexico Fire Will 'Burn Where It Really Will Go'

Aired May 11, 2000 - 5:07 a.m. ET

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

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: We are able to talk to Jim Paxson, fire department spokesman, who is in White Rock, New Mexico this morning.

Mr. Paxson, we just heard the weather forecast, sounds like it will be worse this afternoon. What is the situation now in Los Alamos?

JIM PAXSON, FIRE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, Los Alamos has a lot of area along fire and the Los Alamos Fire Department is working hard to save those houses that do not have a lot fields around them and are not compromised by a lot of standing trees and brush and deep pine dust.

STOUFFER: Mr. Paxson, we heard reports that they were running short of water, that fire crews were having a terrible time out there. Can you update us on that?

PAXSON: Well, they had a power outage and they had to bring in generators to get their pumps started again. But there is water available, they just had to have a power to pump it. And with the generators, they do have that at this time, and power has been restored in some areas.

STOUFFER: And Mr. Paxson, when you talk about trying to save several homes there, what can be saved?

PAXSON: Well, there's a lot that can be saved because there's openings and some of the houses are not built in the deep forest and some of the houses have what we call defensible space, where brush and dead fuels and that sort of things have been removed; metal roofs help a lot.

STOUFFER: And can you give us an idea of the size of this fire? We know smoke and ash are really a problem now in some of the communities outside of Los Alamos.

PAXSON: We have an infrared flight that will determine the size of the fire. We honestly don't have any idea. The smoke was so thick and the fire burned in three directions when it blew up. We know it's two-to-three times what was at noon today, and it may even be bigger than that. But we will know before daylight what the actual size and the location of the fire is. STOUFFER: That is incredible, two-to-three times what it was just earlier today. What will happen in the next few hours as you approach the afternoon, when winds are expected to get worse? What is the plan from here on out?

PAXSON: Well, we are not going to get in front of this fire and attack it, it's going to burn where it really will go, according to terrain and fuels, brush and timber. And we're going to continue to try to keep it out of homes. Will be working in Los Alamos and on the lab. And now we've evacuated the town of White Rock, which is down valley, so there'll be some fire protection in White Rock as well.

STOUFFER: Jim Paxson, fire department spokesman, who is in White Rock, New Mexico right now, we thank you very much for your time and update on this developing story.

And again, he just mentioned the Los Alamos National Laboratory. I can tell you that the fires have started burning on the campus of that laboratory, but we are told by officials that all the explosive materials stored there is stored in fire-proof areas. So they expect that that will be safe throughout the fire in that area.

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