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Entries in New Mexico (32)

Wednesday
Jun292011

EPA Testing for Radiation in New Mexico Wildfire

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(LOS ALAMOS, N.M.) -- The wildfire that surrounds the nuclear lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico, has grown to at least 61,000 acres amid mounting concerns about what might be in the smoke from the blaze that's so big it's visible from space.

Such fear has prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to bring in air monitors, along with a special airplane that checks for radiation levels. So far officials have not been able to find anything.

"Our facilities and nuclear material are protected and safe," Laboratory Director Dr. Charles McMillan told ABC News.

The Los Alamos facility -- the birthplace of the atomic bomb -- was shrouded in secrecy long before it was surrounded by smoke after the Las Conchas fire began Sunday.

"It contains approximately 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste," former top security official Glen Walp said.  "It's not contained within a concrete, brick and mortar-type building, but rather in a sort of fabric-type building that a fire could easily consume."

"Potential is high for a major calamity if the fire would reach these areas," he added.

Reports have indicated that the flames from the 95-square-mile fire have reached as close as 50 feet from the grounds.  With a wildfire this close, lab officials, along with government officials such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, are trying to reassure the public of the plant's safety.

"I'm confident in saying that they are committed to making it safe," Martinez told ABC News.

After a mass evacuation, the city of Los Alamos remains a ghost town.  Most of its 12,000 residents were evacuated Monday, some leaving their sprinklers on to protect their homes.

Still, according to Police Chief Wayne Torpy, about 150 die-hard residents have stayed behind, unfazed by the danger presented by their nuclear neighbor.

Firefighters have made progress in the past few days, and have said that the risk of the flames reaching radioactive material is slim.  Still, they caution that winds Wednesday could change, as could their level of confidence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun272011

Los Alamos Lab Threatened by Wildfire

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(LOS ALAMOS, N.M.) -- A wildfire is burning out of control just one mile from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the nation's top national security research facilities where many hazardous and radioactive materials are housed.

Winds appear to be keeping the flames from the critical New Mexico laboratory, but officials fear a change in the winds could be dangerous.

A statement on the Los Alamos National Laboratory's website indicates that "winds generally from the northwest overnight have helped keep the fire from entering Lab property, but forecasts call for a change by mid-day."

Officials said in a statement that all harmful material have been surveyed and properly stowed.

"Overnight, as a precaution, the Lab cut natural gas to technical areas in LANL's remote southwest area. All hazardous and radioactive materials remain accounted for and are appropriately protected, as are key Lab facilities such as its proton accelerator and supercomputing centers," a statement from the lab said.

The lab shut down all operations Monday as firefighting crews battle the raging flames.

"It's been a very long night for the fire crews," said lab director Charles McMillan in a statement.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to issue a Fire Management Assistance Declaration for the area in order to provide further assistance.

The Las Conchas Fire burst into flames around 1 p.m. on Sunday, according to a report by InciWeb, which provides the Incident Information System and compiles information from government agencies. The report indicates that Sunday's weather conditions included very high temperatures, low humidity and high winds, which all contributed to the inferno. Forecasts Monday call for a change in winds which would jeopardize lab property.

The Lab's Emergency Operations Center remains operational and observation aircrafts have been deployed to monitor the fire's growth and size.

Several nearby areas including Bandelier National Monument, Cochiti Mesa, Las Conchas and campgrounds near the fire were evacuated Sunday. Voluntary evacuations were also issued for White Rock and Los Alamos.

Environmental specialists are stationed in the area and are measuring air quality, but say their main concern is smoke.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun242011

Judge Orders Abortion Billboard Removed, Man Refuses

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(ALAMOGORDO, N.M.) -- A judge has ordered the New Mexico man who put up a billboard suggesting his ex-girlfriend had had an abortion to remove the sign immediately.

This ruling was part of a protective order that Nani Lawrence sought after ex-boyfriend Greg Fultz, 35, put up the billboard along Alamogordo's main thoroughfare in May. Lawrence took him to court with a petition for domestic violence and charges of harassment and invasion of privacy.

The billboard shows Greg Fultz holding the outline of a baby with a playground in the background. The large text beside the photo reads, "This Would Have Been a Picture of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To NOT KILL Our Child!"

Even after the judge's order, Fultz said he had no plans to remove the sign. He told the Alamogordo Daily News, "I personally do not voluntarily plan on taking the sign down at any point in time. I am prepared to go to jail for something I believe in."

Fultz believes the order is a violation of his right to free speech.

The original billboard had two endorsements that have since been removed. The first was from the National Association for Needed Information, or NANI, an organization Fultz created for the study of anti-abortion issues. The acronym also happens to be his ex-girlfriend's first name.

An anti-abortion rights organization called Right to Life New Mexico had also originally endorsed Fultz's billboard and given its permission for Fultz to use its logo. But it pulled its endorsement when it learned that Fultz was unsure whether Lawrence had had an abortion or a miscarriage.

The billboard cost $1,300, which Fultz paid for with the help of donations. Fultz said the donations came from various individuals who heard about his plan, not from businesses or other anti-abortion rights groups.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Wildfires Ravage 6 States: Ariz., Texas, Calif., N.M., Colo. and Ga.

This Landsat 5 satellite image of the Wallow North Fire in east central Arizona shows the burn scar in red; the fire ongoing in really bright red; vegetation in green; smoke in blue; and bare ground in tan.
Credit: NASA/USGS, Mike Taylor
(SIERRA VISTA, Ariz.) -- About 10,000 Arizonans have been forced to flee from their homes as wildfires continue to consume wide swaths of the southwestern United States on Monday. Three dozen fires are raging across parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and California, as well as Texas and Georgia, forcing additional evacuations and slowing traffic to a crawl as highways in the path of the firestorms are closed.

Walls of flames have reached 10 feet in some areas and have burned more than 1.2 million acres.

"I feared for my husband and my animals [and] for the air quality," June Carter, an Arizona evacuee, told ABC News.

More than 700 firefighters have come from across the country to battle what has become known as the Monument Fire south of the city of Sierra Vista, Ariz., which has been burning since last week.

The Wallow blaze, in eastern Arizona, has consumed 519,319 acres, as more than 3,500 firefighters attempt to defend against its advance. Despite its size, the fire has only destroyed 32 homes and four rental cabins. Containment rose to 51 percent Sunday.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., came under verbal fire Monday for partly blaming the fire on illegal immigrants.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain said Saturday at a news conference. "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

A U.S. Forest Service spokesman, speaking of the Wallow Fire in Arizona, said there's no evidence it was caused by immigrants. McCain's office said Monday that he was talking about fires in general, not just the Wallow Fire, and that there is evidence smugglers and illegal immigrants have caused fires on the southern U.S. border while camping or traveling.

The other major fire in the area, in Cochise County, Ariz., called the Horseshoe Two Fire, has charred about 210,000 acres and destroyed 23 structures since it started May 8.

Diminishing winds Monday should help firefighters battle the blazes, after a week's worth of sustained high winds that helped fuel the fires. A recent drought has also led to dry, dusty conditions that help wildfires thrive.

Along with Arizona, Texas has been the hardest hit. North of Houston, a 14,000-acre blaze is among the largest East Texas has ever seen. The fire has burned 15,000 acres, and temperatures are about 100 degrees. The choking smoke forced a five-hour shutdown of I-45, the only interstate that connects Houston and Dallas.

The Track Fire, straddling the border between New Mexico and Colorado, which began last week near the town of Raton, is now 90 percent contained. But a new fire is burning nine miles north of Santa Fe.

Further east in Georgia, about 200 firefighters have slowed the expansion of a couple of 20,000-acre fires in the southeastern part of that state. Smoke shelters are open in Jacksonville, Fla., Monday because of the noxious fumes resulting from the fires to its northwest.

In California, firefighters are battling a fire that began Sunday morning that has already devoured 5,068 acres from a Kern County oil field to a remote area of eastern San Luis Obispo County. Five water-dropping helicopters are supporting 337 firefighters on the ground, but there have been no reported injuries and only one structure has been destroyed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun122011

Wallow Fire: Residents Cautioned About Hazardous Air Quality

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(PINETOP, Ariz.) -- Health officials in New Mexico and Arizona are warning residents that air quality conditions could worsen as enormous wildfires rage on in the two states.

The Wallow Fire has been burning in Arizona for two weeks and has burned nearly 700 square miles, destroyed dozens of homes and displaced thousands of people.

On Sunday authorities gave the all-clear to about 8,000 residents of Eagar and Springerville Arizona, who were previously evacuated, to return home. Other mountain communities like Alpine, Nutrioso and Greer are looking at around five more days before they can go home.

Even with the green light to return to homes, officials caution that there still may be some air quality issues in and around those neighborhoods where people are returning to.

New Mexico residents as far away as Santa Fe and Albuquerque are being cautioned, and more at-risk groups such as children, seniors, pregnant women and those with already-existing respiratory diseases are advised to take extra precautions.

With approximately 3,000 firefighters battling the blaze, containment has been fluctuating between five percent and six percent.

As the fire continues to spread, concern is growing that the fire may endanger two major power lines that bring electricity to West Texas from Arizona.

Lighter winds on Thursday and Friday allowed firefighters to make more progress, but winds picked up again on Saturday and high winds are expected Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun112011

Fire Crews Brace for High Winds as Arizona Wildfire Rages On

Stockbyte/John Foxx(PINETOP, Ariz.) -- Firefighters were bracing for high winds Saturday as they continue to battle an Arizona wildfire that has spread over more than 600 square miles.

The Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona is still keeping nearly 10,000 people out of their homes. The blaze started in late May and is reportedly six percent contained.

Earlier in the week, firefighters got a break from the winds which helped them make good progress on the fire that has already destroyed at least 29 homes and prompted evacuations of thousands of people.

At a community meeting Friday night, Apache County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Brannon Eagar struggled to break the news to evacuees.

"It hurts me to come over here and see my community over here. I want to be able to see you guys over there where we belong," he said.

Hot, heavy winds are expected to return Saturday. Winds in the 30-to-35 mph range could lead to flames spreading even further.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun102011

Arizona Wildfires Set to Cross State Line Into New Mexico

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.) -- More than 3,000 firefighters managed to contain a small slice of the massive Wallow fire in eastern Arizona but the inferno is threatening to cross the border into New Mexico on Friday.

Workers are using a DC-10 tanker air carrier from the sky and firebreaks on the ground in attempts to stop the blaze before it reaches the tiny town of Luna, New Mexico, seven miles from the Arizona border.

Incident Commander Joe Reinarz said Thursday that for the first time since the fire was sparked on May 29 firefighters were able to keep parts of it contained.  So far, the blaze has scorched over 350,000 acres.

"Saturday we can possibly look at getting the evacuees in Eagar, Springerville, and Southfork back in their homes if the conditions are right over the next day and a half, two days," Reinarz said.

They are attempting to halt a repeat of the blaze that scorched Greer, Arizona on Wednesday.  New numbers released overnight revealed that 22 buildings -- many of them family homes -- in that town were destroyed.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., fears a summer home he owns in the town may have been one of them.  Like their senator, thousands of residents are still in the dark, desperate to learn anything about what has happened to their houses since they were evacuated.

Still in the fire's path are Paso Electric's high-voltage transmission lines, which supply electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.  If these lines go, it may mean blackouts for many part of the region.

Alex Hoon, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told ABC News that this fire is actually creating its own weather, forming a pyrocumulus cloud, or fire cloud, that is dynamically similar to a firestorm.

"The fire is so intense has so much heat that it actually forms its own thunderstorm at the top of the smoke plume," Hoon said.

These storms spur the fire on by creating winds that start new fires by hurling burning debris as far as five miles through the air.  Winds in the region should continue to be mild throughout Friday hours, but will then become strong again.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun072011

Abortion Billboard Could Land New Mexico Ex-Boyfriend in Jail

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(ALAMOGORDO, N.M.) -- A New Mexico man said Tuesday he will fight to keep up a controversial billboard that suggested his ex-girlfriend had an abortion.

The billboard has a photo of Greg Fultz holding the outline of a baby with a playground in the background. The large text beside the photo reads, "This Would Have Been a Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To NOT KILL Our Child!"

The sign is on White Sands Boulevard, the main thoroughfare in Alamogordo, N.M., and has been up since mid-May. Fultz's ex-girlfriend Nani Lawrence took him to court with a petition for domestic violence and charges of harassment and invasion of privacy.

Fultz, 35, claims that Lawrence was pregnant with his child during their six-month relationship last year. He admits that when the relationship ended, the baby was lost, but he does not know whether it was due to an abortion or a miscarriage. Fultz says that Lawrence would not tell him what happened.

Fultz maintains that the billboard was part of a greater message and was not aimed at his ex-girlfriend. He does admit, however, that the idea was "inspired" by events in his own life.

"My original intentions when I started this campaign were quite simple," Fultz said. "I just wanted to shed the light on pro-life issues and fathers' rights. I have had no closure over my own personal loss and that's where the billboard came into play."

Last week, Otero County Domestic Violence Court hearing commissioner Darrell Brantley recommended an order of protection for Lawrence and that the billboard be removed by 8:14 a.m. on June 17 on the grounds of harassment.

Judge James W. Counts is expected to approve these recommendations, but his office says they cannot comment on pending cases.

Fultz's attorney Todd Holmes said the court commissioner has stated he will recommend jail time if Fultz does not remove the billboard by June 17. They are planning on objecting to the ruling. Holmes argues that the lawsuit is a violation of his client's right to free speech.

Holmes cites the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for its anti-gay rallies and protesting at military funerals. The court ruled that the activities are protected by the First Amendment's right to free speech.

Lawrence could not be reached for comment, but her lawyer Ellen Jessen told the Alamogordo Daily News, "I think Fultz's right to free speech ends where Nani Lawrence's right to privacy begins....We have to balance one's right to free speech against one's right to free speech."

The original billboard had two endorsements that have since been removed. The first was from N.A.N.I., an organization Fultz created for pro-life issues that stands for National Association for Needed Information. The acronym also happens to be his ex-girlfriend's first name.

After a few weeks, Fultz removed N.A.N.I. due to the controversy distracting people from the intended message, he says.

A pro-life organization called Right to Life New Mexico had also originally endorsed Fultz's billboard and given their permission for him to use their logo. However, they pulled their endorsement when they discovered that Fultz was unsure whether Lawrence had an abortion or miscarriage.

The billboard cost $1,300, paid for by Fultz with the help of donations. Fultz says that the donations came from various individuals who heard about his plan, not from any businesses or other pro-life or organizations. The GEFNET endorsement on the billboard is from Fultz's own business.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr112011

Real-Life X-Files Reference 'Flying Saucers' in New Mexico

Thinkstock/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Flying saucer sightings? Reports of three-foot-tall aliens? Secret memos about suspicious objects recovered near Roswell, N.M.? They're all included in the thousands of declassified government documents posted to the FBI's new online "Vault."

Earlier this month, the FBI announced its revamped online reading room that contains more than 2,000 government files. While the documents had been previously available to the public, not all had been digitized and easily searchable online.

Among the so-called "X-files" are once-classified reports dating back to the 1940s and 1950s detailing Air Force investigations into "flying discs" and the "bodies of human shape" discovered inside them.

In one report from March 1950, Guy Hottel, a special agent with the FBI, said he received information from an Air Force investigator about flying saucers found in New Mexico.

"They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50-feet in diameter," he wrote. "Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in a metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner very similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots."

The informant, whose name is redacted in the file, said he thought the saucer was spotted in New Mexico because a high-powered government radar in the area interfered with the saucer's controlling mechanism.

At least one document will disappoint those who believe a spaceship landed at Roswell, N.M., probably the most famous UFO conspiracy theory. The document from 1947, with the word "Roswell" handwritten across the top, says that a "flying disc" was recovered near Roswell, N.M.

"The disc is hexagonal in shape and was suspended from a balloon by cable," the document said. "The object found resembles a high-altitude weather balloon with a radar reflector."

Other reports once marked "restricted" and "confidential" detail sightings of mysterious flashing lights and other "unidentified aerial objects."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr072011

Man Drove For Three Days With Dead Friend in Car

ABC News(ESPANOLA, N.M.) -- A New Mexico man drove the decomposing body of his paraplegic friend around for three days, unaware that she was dead despite what others described as an overpowering stench and a horde of flies around the body.

Amy Marquez, 33, had been slumped in the passenger side of the car, but her friend Jerry Maestas, 64, assumed she was sleeping, police said. It wasn't until her back began turning blue that Maestas brought Marquez to a hospital, police said.

Lt. Christian Lopez said when he arrived at the parking lot of Espanola Hospital, the odor emanating from the car was overwhelming.

"There were flies all over. I don't know how he didn't know," Lopez said. "He's not all there, I guess. I have no confirmation that he has a mental illness but this guy isn't running on all cylinders."

Police determined Marquez had been dead about 66 hours.

Lopez said Maestas told him that Marquez was fine on Sunday, and had spent the day drinking alcohol with him as he drove around town with no destination in mind. Maestas told the officer that he didn't think anything of Marquez lying still since, as a paraplegic, she cannot move the lower half of her body, Lopez said.

Lopez said Maestas reasoned that because she wore an adult diaper she would not have needed to use a bathroom during her three-day excursion around town.

Maestas, a retired prison guard, admitted to Lopez that he drank alcohol most of Sunday with Marquez and that after she fell asleep, he continued driving around town and would stop to drink alone.

"From the position she was in, and the fact that she was drinking large amounts of alcohol, my guess is that it was a positional asphyxiation," Lopez said. He explained that people who suffer from paralysis sometimes don't get signals to their brain alerting them to a body position that may be cutting off their oxygen supply.

Hospital nurses said that when Maestas arrived at the emergency room, he told them his friend was ill and needed a wheelchair, but when they got to the car, they found Marquez's decomposing body.

"We handled the situation as best we could," Cheryl Marita of Espanola Hospital told the told ABC affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque.

"There's no way to describe what we're dealing with," Lopez said.

An autopsy was performed Wednesday and there were no preliminary reports of foul play, Lopez said. Toxicology reports will reveal how much alcohol Marquez may have had in her system and whether she had been taking any drugs. The results won't be in for at least four weeks, he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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