Authorities said Wednesday that the fire is no longer an imminent threat. The residents of the forested city of Flagstaff were told to leave Monday evening so that firefighters could work to starve the fire of fuel.
Rain, higher humidity and cooler weather have helped firefighters attack the blaze. It has burned nearly 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) in the mountains overlooking Flagstaff.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office says the evacuated residents can return home Wednesday afternoon. They’ll be required to check in with deputies and show identification.
About 5,000 people remain on notice they may have to flee.
Officials say the fire is human-caused but don’t know exactly how it started.
Officials with the nation’s primary nuclear research facility say no buildings containing nuclear material are threatened by a massive Idaho wildfire.
Idaho National Laboratory spokeswoman Kerry Martin said Wednesday that the flames had earlier pushed close to several facilities at the sprawling site, including one building where high-level radioactive materials are studied and another where an older nuclear reactor is kept.
But Martin said a change in wind direction is now pushing the flames away from buildings with nuclear material.
The sprawling lab site in southeastern Idaho sits on desert property that’s nearly the size of Rhode Island. The wildfire ignited by lightning Monday is estimated to have burned about 172 square miles (445 square kilometers).
Martin says air quality and radiological monitoring shows radiation remains at normal levels.
An evacuation order for non-essential laboratory employees is in place for a second day.
Officials say a wildfire burning on the sprawling grounds of the remote Idaho National Laboratory nuclear research site has grown and pushed closer to buildings.
Officials with the National Interagency Fire Center said Wednesday that some buildings are threatened by the fire, which grew to an estimated 155 square miles (401 square kilometers). That’s up from 140 square miles (362 kilometers) on Tuesday.
Laboratory spokeswoman Kerry Martin was unable to provide information about how close the fire was to the threatened buildings or exactly which buildings were threatened. Because of that, it was not immediately known what the threatened buildings contained.
Martin says air quality and radiological monitoring shows the amount of radiation remains at normal levels at the nation’s primary federal nuclear research laboratory.
The site includes nuclear reactors and research materials, as well as facilities for processing high-level nuclear waste and other radioactive waste. Martin says the fire is not currently near the waste processing facilities.
Wildfires are frequent at the high desert site and the Martin said the fire appeared to be “in good shape” Wednesday morning.
An evacuation order for non-essential laboratory employees that went into effect Tuesday was still in place on Wednesday.
Authorities say light rain will help firefighters battle a wildfire in mountains overlooking the northern Arizona city of Flagstaff.
Fire management team spokesman Steve Kleist said Wednesday that up to 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of rain had fallen in the fire area since Tuesday.
He says that will allow ground firefighting crews to directly attack the fire, extinguishing flames and building containment lines.
The fire has burned just under 3 square miles (7.6 square kilometers) since it started Sunday, with containment standing at about 10 percent of its perimeter. The cause is under investigation.
National Weather Service forecasters warned of thunderstorms and possible flooding from thunderstorm runoff in the region that includes the fire.
Kliest said Wednesday morning there were no initial reports of lighting in the fire zone and that winds were light.
Authorities are warning of possible flooding as thunderstorms are expected to drench a forested Arizona city where a wildfire has scarred a mountainous area overlooking it and prompted anxious residents to pack up prized possessions.
The National Weather Service said in a statement that numerous thunderstorms were expected in the Flagstaff area Wednesday and Thursday that could produce heavy rain, lightning and gusty winds.
The fire has charred about 2 square miles (5.4 square kilometers) in a mountain pass that’s a prime recreation area near Flagstaff.
About two dozen homes have been evacuated and residents of 5,000 homes were previously told they might have to leave.
Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency, freeing $200,000 in state funding for the effort to battle the blaze in Coconino National Forest.