Officials say Assayii Lake Fire has grown to more than 11,000 acres

(Times photo - Ravonelle Yazzie)

The Navajo Hotshots make their way to the fire in the Chuska Mountains near Asaayi Lake, which is east of Navajo Pine, N.M., on Sunday morning.

By Terry Bowman
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 16, 2014

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(Times photo - Ravonelle Yazzie)

TOP: Operations Section Chief Darrell Willis with Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3 discusses the Asaayi Lake Fire during a briefing on Monday in Window Rock. Willis said over 2.000 acres has so far burned.

MIDDLE: A Navajo Hotshot prepares to battle the Asaayi Lake Fire on Sunday at Asaayi Lake, which is east of Navajo Pine, N.M., on Sunday.

BOTTOM: Navajo Hotshot teammate carries a chainsaw that he is going to use to battle the Asaayi Lake Fire on Sunday. Over 600 wild land fire fighters are expected to help fight the fire.

The Assayii Lake Fire has charred more than 11,000 acres of forest and is still growing, fire officials said Monday afternoon.


Shelly declares state of emergency after 11,000 acres burn near Assayii Lake

Roughly 600 firefighters from multi-agencies are battling the blaze, which is being reported as “human caused and still under investigation.”

"Today it got very active," said Todd Abel, operations section chief for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, in his update to community members in Naschitti, who filled their chapter to maximum capacity to listen.

Abel added that the fire is not contained which is mostly due in part to the high velocity winds.

According to the National Weather Service, a fire weather watch has been issued for the region surrounding the Chuska Mountains.

The "single fire" is halfway down the summit, and the community of Naschitti is on a Type II evacuation.

Fire crews are having a tough time containing the blaze because of strong winds, dry conditions and low humidity, said Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3 Operations Section Chief Darrell Willis, who took charge of fire operations.

“As you know it’s windy but it’s going to get windier for the next few days,” Willis said. “That is what the forecast said.”

Ben Frisk, Liaison Officer for the SWA Incident Management Team, concurred while adding that 20 different fire crews are helping to fight the blaze using 15 fire engines. They are also getting support from the air with aircrafts rotating shifts dumping water and fire retardant.

Willis said the fire, which has zero containment, is moving toward the communities of Sheep Springs and Naschitti, N.M. Fire officials are evacuating people who live on or around the Chuska Mountain.

Route 134, also known as Narbona Pass road to locals, is closed from Crystal Boarding School to Sheep Springs, N.M. In addition, Routes 30 from Mexican Springs to the Highway 491, and route 31 from Navajo to Assayii Lake, are also closed until further notice, said fire officials.

The Navajo Times has also learned that Navajo Tribal Utility Authority will be shutting off the power around the Assayii Lake area to avoid live power lines coming down by the fire, which will endanger more people such as firefighters, civilians and livestock.

On Monday, Newcomb and Naschitti schools were being evacuated due to the fire on the Chuska Mountain. Parents were asked to pick up their children at Newcomb High, Newcomb Middle, Newcomb Elementary and Naschitti Elementary as soon as possible.

There will be no bus runs from these schools Monday afternoon.

For more info call the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Forestry and Wildland Fire Management (928)729-2307 or the Navajo Nation Police Department 928- 871-6111.

The Navajo Times will continue to provide up-to-date information as it comes in. For continuing coverage, go to or follow on twitter at, Fire, and on Facebook at

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