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Firefighters fret as massive wildfire threatens to consume nuclear research center

If Mother Nature doesn’t start cooperating, there could be a nuclear reactor sitting smack dab in the middle of this fire’s path.

Deep within the wilds of Idaho, a terrifying series of events is unfolding.

Firefighters in The Gem State are working around the clock in an attempt to contain a massive wildfire, sparked by lightning.  The fire, which has already consumed over 170 square miles, is raging within striking distance of one fo the nation’s premier nuclear research facilities – which could be a disastrous confluence should Mother Nature refuse to cooperate.

The largest wildfire at the nation’s primary nuclear research facility in recent history had been burning close to buildings containing nuclear fuel and other radioactive material but a change in wind direction Wednesday was pushing the flames into open range at the sprawling site in Idaho, officials said.

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The lightning-caused fire at the Idaho National Laboratory is one of several across the U.S. West.

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Before the wind shifted, the Idaho blaze got close to several lab facilities, including one where high-level radioactive materials are studied and another holding a nuclear reactor, spokeswoman Kerry Martin said.

Firefighters were confident in their abilities to avert a nuclear catastrophe, however.

The lab has several safety measures for wildfires that often ignite in southeastern Idaho’s desert rangeland, including clearing ground around each building and having several specially trained fire crews stationed around the site that’s nearly the size of Rhode Island.

“It’s not our first rodeo,” Martin said. “We have fire stations, a lot of fire equipment, we have trained firefighters and equipment to cut barriers.”

Luckily for all involved, massive bouts of thundershowers are expected to drench the region in the coming days, allowing firefighters to piggyback off of this natural assistance in order to battle the blaze.

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