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Gov. Johnson: 'Questions Need to be Answered' About Start of New Mexico WildfiresAired May 11, 2000 - 7:16 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has been following the evacuations and firefighting efforts through the night.
Governor Johnson joins us now by telephone from Los Alamos with more on those efforts.
Good morning, Governor.
GOV. GARY JOHNSON (R), NEW MEXICO: Well, good morning. And of course everybody's holding their breath here as to what the morning holds in store. And right now, in deference...
... mornings here, the wind is blowing stiffly right now, and we're expecting winds today up to 50 miles an hour. So, really, a very, very bad situation.
LIN: Governor, what can your firefighters do at this point? I understand that the fire broke through fire lines and is leapfrogging ahead of firefighters by as much as a mile and half to two miles.
JOHNSON: You know, it's -- it clearly broke yesterday. I mean -- and by clearly broke, there is...
... lines established right now. The defense is of homes and properties in Los Alamos. And at this point, the -- with the evening having passed, of course, that always ends up to be the lull. Everybody's bracing for the morning and hoping for the best.
LIN: And at the same time, today you're going to be meeting with James Lee Witt, with FEMA, as well as the secretary of energy, Bill Richardson. What are you going to be asking of the federal government?
JOHNSON: The federal government has provided everything that we need, so I couldn't ask for more. They -- everything that New Mexico needs is being made available or has been made available. So they're here to assess the situation, and grateful for them to be here.
LIN: And what sorts of resources are they giving you? JOHNSON: You name it and they're giving it to -- you know, equipment, manpower, airplanes -- it's all here.
LIN: All right. Well, as you know, Governor, there's a big debate about how this fire started. Should have been set? Last week, the very week that you announced to the public of the fire danger in your state, the National Park Service decided to have this controlled burn. Could this have been prevented?
JOHNSON: Well, I share in the frustration and I share in those same questions. Hey, none of this, you know, has to be occurring right now, and so those questions need to be answered and I'm at the top of the list wanting to understand what really went down.
LIN: And are you getting any answers?
JOHNSON: At this point, I don't think anybody's really concentrating on what caused it in that it is a catastrophe ongoing right now.
LIN: Do you feel secure that the radioactive materials as well as toxic materials at the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory are secure?
JOHNSON: Yes, I do. I'm confident that no damage is going to result from -- whether the hazardous materials, chemical, nuclear materials, explosive materials, I'm confident nothing is going to result from that as a result of the fire.
LIN: And yet, given the extent of the fire -- and we've been looking at some pretty dramatic pictures here -- the U.S. Forest Service has said that this has been a miracle that so far nobody has been hurt.
JOHNSON: That's right, and that's the blessing side of all of this: Nobody has been hurt. And, you know, at this point, the property damage is not what it could be. So keeping our fingers crossed and, again, we'll wait and see what this new day holds.
LIN: All right, Governor Gary Johnson, let's hope that the weather is on your side. Thanks for joining us this morning.
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