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Los Alamos Residents Seek Comfort

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POJOAQUE, N.M. (AP) — With tears streaming down their faces, two women clutching rosary beads held each other tightly before the altar. One couple knelt and prayed that they would be able to rebuild on the spot where their house was destroyed by fire.

They were among some 375 congregants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary church in Los Alamos who gathered Sunday at a Roman Catholic parish in nearby Pojoaque. Though some mourned their losses from the wildfire that swept through town, others were thankful that nobody was hurt.

``When we lose a home or when it is damaged, we feel as though it is happening to our very selves,'' the Rev. Charles Brown told them. ``God did not plan the fire. It was not his doing.''

The blaze was started by the National Park Service as a controlled burn, only to roar out of control and destroy 260 homes. It had scorched 44,323 acres and was 28 percent contained this morning. All of Los Alamos' 11,000 residents remained out of their homes.

Brown asked the worshippers not to try to assess blame but to offer forgiveness.

``It is the result of a miscalculation and the natural forces of creation,'' he told them. ``No one would deliberately cause such damage.''

Services for victims of the wildfire also were held Sunday in Santa Fe, 35 miles southeast of Los Alamos. Throughout the state, churches took up collections for the victims.

Joe Katcher, 74, and his wife, Beverly, 77, said they came to the Pojoaque parish seeking additional strength to cope with losing their house. The couple said they had only enough time to grab their wedding pictures and a file cabinet holding important papers before fleeing.

``I was doing all right, but I'm starting to fall apart,'' said Katcher, a retired electronics technician for the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
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