The Latest: Workers return to Idaho nuke research facility
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Latest on wildfires in the western U.S., including blazes in Idaho and Arizona (all times local):
Workers at a sprawling nuclear research site in Idaho have returned to work after a wildfire kept them away for two days.
Officials say fire crews expect to have a 177-square-mile (458-square-kilometer) wildfire at the site contained by the end of Thursday.
The Idaho National Laboratory is considered the nation’s primary nuclear research facility, and it sits on a span of desert nearly the size of Rhode Island.
The lightning-caused wildfire at the site forced evacuations for all non-essential employees while fire crews worked to control the fire and protect the nuclear reactors and other facilities at the laboratory.
Mike Johnson with the laboratory’s Joint Information Center says no buildings were lost and there were no injuries because of the blaze. Air quality monitoring has shown that radioactivity levels in the region have remained normal.
Authorities say a wildfire near the northern Arizona city of Flagstaff has grown slightly and that it’s tough for firefighters to reach parts of the blaze in dense vegetation in rugged terrain.
Fire incident management spokeswoman Bonnie Strawser says 670 people are fighting the fire in mountains overlooking Flagstaff that has burned 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) since it started on Sunday.
Strawser said Thursday that the fire is 12 percent contained. Rain helped firefighters but a drying trend is expected in coming days before seasonal rain picks up again early next week.
The nation’s primary nuclear research facility plans to go back to regular operations Thursday after a change in wind direction pushed a wildfire away from the sprawling site in Idaho.
The fire no longer poses a threat to key research facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory, lab officials said Wednesday evening.
The lightning-caused fire at the Idaho National Laboratory is one of several across the U.S. West.
Lab spokeswoman Kerry Martin says the Idaho blaze before the wind shifted got close to several lab facilities, including one where high-level radioactive materials are studied and another holding a nuclear reactor.
The lab has several safety measures for wildfires that often ignite in southeastern Idaho’s desert rangeland, including clearing ground around each building and having several specially trained fire crews stationed around the site that’s nearly the size of Rhode Island.