Terribly Destructive Fire at Los Alamos Is Awfully Beautiful

The Los Alamos National Laboratory is chronicling the wildfires on Flickr

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Early Tuesday morning, firefighters battled the growing blaze along the edge of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in an effort keep the flames from overtaking the nuclear facility. Accordingly, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of the 12,000 or so residents of neighboring Los Alamos, New Mexico as the lab's director assured the public that any hazardous materials at the lab, which was shut down when the fires broke out Sunday, were well out of the fire's reach. The anti-nuclear watchdog group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety warned that as many as 30,000 drums of nuclear waste was just 3.5 miles from the flames, a claim the lab declined to confirm.

"Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question other than to say that the material is well protected," said lab spokesman Steve Sandoval. "And the lab--knowing that it works with hazardous and nuclear materials--takes great pains to make sure it is protected and locked in concrete steel vaults. And the fire poses very little threat to them."

Meanwhile, those still on duty at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have been taking pictures of the disaster. This may seem out of place at first, but in the place where the first nuclear bombs were built and tested, a wildfire just seem like a small scale disaster to Los Alamos. Either way, the photos are kind of stunning.

Winds as high as 60 miles per hour make the flame particularly unpredictably, and firefighters say the blaze could triple in size if it's not contained.

Sunlight filtered through the smoke creates the orange glow. It looks like Mars.

The view upwards is equally alien. Also, undeniably apocalyptic.

It all looks so pretty and surreal we have to remind ourselves that there's a violent fire nearby. News photographers took care of those shots, however.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.