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The Las Conchas Fire which is burning near Los Alamos, New Mexico, and is the source of the smoke that has blanketed southern Colorado over the past few days, has now charred nearly 145 square miles and is well on its way to becoming the largest forest fire in New Mexico history. Firefighters were confident yesterday that they had stopped the advance of the fire that was headed toward the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab and the nearby town that currently sits empty for the second time in 11 years. Two hundred of the 1,000 firefighters assigned to the blaze battled it in a canyon that descends into the town and parts of the lab. The Los Alamos Canyon runs past the old Manhattan Project site in town and a 1940s-era dump site where workers are near the end of a clean-up project of low-level radioactive waste. Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker said that the fire area in the canyon had been thinned previously, providing a safe area for firefighters to attack it. Despite the erratic nature of the blaze, fire officials remained confident yesterday that they could keep it from spreading into the national laboratory or into the town. The fire is currently only 3% contained.

The owners of Sierra Vista Lumber have announced that an Ace Hardware superstore will open in the old Kmart building in Alamosa. The “soft opening” is scheduled for July 19th. The store will hold 14,000 square feet of merchandise and is currently being set up, a process that started last week and will take three weeks to complete. The new store will employ 13 people to begin with up to as many as 17 in the future. The Van Gieson Construction Company has been performing the remodeling of the old Kmart building. Rosalie and Leroy Martinez previously owned the entire former Kmart building, but sold it. They have now bought back a third of the building to build the Ace Hardware superstore. The sound, security and fire systems are now in place and are operational, as are all of the utilities. Because the Martinez’s also own Sierra Vista Lumber, they’ll be able to supply lumber and hardware from both stores.

Walsenburg Mayor Bruce Quintana is asking residents of the city to please use extreme caution with fireworks this year including utilizing a safe zone of pavement and the availability of water when using legal fireworks. Please refrain from using illegal fireworks. Any firework that becomes airborne is illegal in Colorado. Citizens are reminded that the can report the illegal use of fireworks to police by calling 719-738-1044. Also remember that most areas in southern Colorado have a fire and/or fireworks ban in place, so make sure that if you plan to set off fireworks this weekend, you do it in a place where it’s allowed.

The South Fork Fire Department has been able to secure a safe location for the South Fork fireworks display with the cooperation of the Rio Grande Club, so the event will go on as originally scheduled, tomorrow, July 2nd, around 9:30pm. To get a great view of the fireworks, the public should either go to the parking lot at the South Fork Visitors Center or the parking lot at the community building on Highway 149. The town of South Fork wishes to thank the fire department, its volunteers and the owners and staff of the Rio Grande Club for helping to ensure that the fireworks display could take place this year.

The South Central Council of Governments main offices in Trinidad and Walsenburg, Early Learning Center, Corazon Square Kitchen, Harry Sayre Senior Center Kitchen, meals on wheels and all outlying nutrition sites will be closed on Monday, July 4th, in observance of the 4th of July. Transit in Trinidad and Walsenburg will be limited for the entire day. Anyone interested in a ride on Monday or Tuesday of next week should call the Rideline at 719-845-1127 by no later than 3:30pm today.