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Los Alamos evacuation order lifted allowing 12,000 to return home

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Hundreds of firefighters were working Sunday to contain the 189-square-mile fire as it burned through a canyon on the Santa Clara Pueblo reservation and threatened other pueblos on the Pajarito Plateau. The area, a stretch of mesas that run more than 15 miles west of Santa Fe, N.M., includes Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Exceptionally dry weather

Authorities said the fire, burning for eight days Sunday, has been fueled by an exceptionally dry season in the Southwest and erratic winds.

Crews have managed to keep the fire in Los Alamos Canyon several miles upslope from the federal laboratory, boosting confidence that it no longer posed an immediate threat to the facility or the nearby town. Crews were helped by rain on Saturday afternoon that slowed the fire.

"Hopefully we'll get two to three more days like this and we'll be fine," operations chief Jayson Coil said.

The blaze, the largest ever in New Mexico, reached the Santa Clara Pueblo's watershed in the canyon this week, damaging the area that the tribe considers its birthplace and scorching 20 square miles of tribal forest. Fire operations chief Jerome Macdonald said it was within miles of the centuries-old Puye Cliff Dwellings, a national historic landmark.

Tribes were worried that cabins, pueblos and watersheds could be destroyed.

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