LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) - The Las Conchas Fire grew a lot on Wednesday as strong winds helped it roar north onto Santa Clara Pueblo land and expand into a 90,000-acre beast.
Strong winds helped it roar north onto Santa Clara Pueblo lands threatening the tribal watershed. The Los Alamos County fire chief estimated the fire grew by 20,000 acres during the day turning it into a 90,000-acre beast.
Crews worked furiously with burnouts and back burns around Los Alamos National Laboratory and to beat back the fire in the hills to the west of Los Alamos.
There was a scary moment when the fire spotted high up in Los Alamos Canyon, the fuel-rich gateway funneling into town and the lab.
But crews were all over it.
Officials have said Wednesday night and Thursday could be make or break for the battle as the winds shift and take aim at Los Alamos from the west.
Still, a busy, active day around Los Alamos gave way to an optimistic night.
Fire officials said while the winds were blowing steadily all day, fire teams were able to accomplish all their goals beefing up a perimeter around the lab and the town.
"As far as our houses, our residents, our county, we're in the best shape we've been in since this thing started," Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker said.
The majority of work was done along State Road 501 the western edge of lab property.
Firefighters laid down a controlled burn that now stretches between 100 and 600 feet wide.
Tucker said the lab is now buffered on the south and west with lengthy protection.
During the evening News 13 visited Los Alamos Canyon where crews have spent nearly the past 48 hours making sure the fire didn't get in there and start its race toward town.
There has been burning at the top, and the Pajarito ski hill is still a concern, but considering Wednesday's conditions, the chief told News 13 there couldn't have been a better fight today.
"It just so happened when it spotted it spotted in above the reservoir, so for us it was the best place possible," Tucker said. "They put the heavies on it, and it's not an issue any more."
For the past two nights substantial flames could be seen about three miles from town.
But on Wednesday night only a few spots of concern could be seen, and they seem to be farther away than the night before.
Tucker was so optimistic he said some firefighters might even be able to go home and see their families for the first time in four days.
Yet while the Los Alamos fire officials are confident they're holding the fire at bay, they're not ready to let residents back into their homes. And they still don't know when anyone will be let back in.
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