As of this morning, the fire in Los Alamos has grown to 92,735 acres; it's the second largest fire in New Mexico history, but only by about 2,000 acres.
The fire is less than a mile from the nuclear lab, so this fire is "the highest priority fire in the country." Yesterday the firefighters did a lot of "backburning," setting fires around the perimeter of the lab to create a bare space with no vegetation, so if the fire got that far, it would stop because of the lack of fuel. Of course setting an intentional fire is risky. If the wind changes direction suddenly (which happens in New Mexico), it could be disastrous.
The real danger is what is on the lab property -- 30,000 drums of plutonium-contaminated waste, stored in fabric tents above ground. The lab director keeps assuring everyone that, "the nuclear materials are safe, accounted for, and protected." But people are skeptical and rightfully so. Experts say that plutonium is the most toxic substance known to humans. Inhaling a single speck of plutonium will lead to lung cancer, with 100% certainty.
For the moment, the problem in Taos is the smoke. Yesterday it was particulary bad and I kept coughing a lot, even staying inside. Today doesn't seem as bad (so far).
The challenge is keeping the house cool. Using the swamp cooler is out of the question. The way those work is they draw in the outside air to water-soaked straw pads, which cools the air, and then the cool air is blown down through a vent to cool the house. It blows with quite a bit of force, so a window has to be open, so the "extra" air has somewhere to go. So the cool air blows the hot air out. The swamp cooler works best in arid climates. But what this means now is that it would draw in smoke-filled air which would be unhealthy and unpleasant. So in the early mornings when it's still cool, I open the windows on the west side of the house (and keep the shades lowered on the eastern windows to keep the sun out) and let cool air in. Also in the mornings the wind is calm, so the smoke isn't blowing in. As the day heats up and the sun moves, I close all the windows and all the shades. In the evenings, I open up the windows again to let some cool air in.
The town of Taos has postponed the 4th of July fireworks display until at least July 21, depending on weather and fire conditions.
The county of Taos tweaked the law a little bit to ban the sale of fireworks anywhere within the county. See The Taos News for the details. The grocery stores had already voluntarily pulled all fireworks from the shelves, but there were still independent fireworks stands selling them. Not anymore.
I'll keep posting updates. Nothing like a national disaster to get me blogging again!