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Prescribed fire burns out of control

This satellite photograph shows a large wildfire burning near Los Alamos, N.M., on May 10. National Park Service personnel set the fire May 4 at Bandelier National Monument to clear underbrush that could fuel natural forest fires.

The following day, high winds whipped the controlled burn into a wildfire. The inferno, dubbed the Cerro Grande fire, consumed more than 46,000 acres and 235 homes. Flames scorched the Los Alamos National Laboratory but caused no structural damage to the research buildings, says Rick Malaspina, a spokesperson for the University of California, which manages the lab. However, the fire destroyed buildings of historical interest that housed the Los Alamos portion of the Manhattan Project, which led to the first atomic bomb.

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