Martinez, Shelly: We have seen worse fires

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

NASCHITTI, N.M., June 18, 2014

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From their aerial view on a helicopter, both New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and President Ben Shelly explained to community members from Naschitti and Newcomb Tuesday night that they have seen worse fires than the soaring 12,000 acre Assayii Lake Fire.

For Shelly, he said that the fire is “spotty” based on what he saw on the aerial flight.

“It’s not destroying everything,” Shelly told the 50 people or so people, who waited for him and the governor to provide them an update at approximately 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of stuff that is not touched,” the president added.

On June 16, Shelly declared a state of emergency for the Assayii Lake Fire, which was ignited June 13 in the Bowl Canyon Recreation Area in Crystal, N.M.

Shelly and Martinez were visiting the impacted communities of Crystal, Naschitti and Sheepsprings, N.M. Tuesday evening. They also toured the central command center in Fort Defiance, where the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3 is headquartered.

The pair of leaders also visited the American Red Cross shelter in Newcomb, where some evacuees and firefighters are stationed.

Martinez added that the state of New Mexico is committed to helping the Navajo Nation battle the blaze with its resources, including sending more law enforcement officials to the region to assist locals and patrol the busy U.S. Highway 491.

“I’ve seen worse, much worse,” Martinez said, adding that the state will ensure the safety of the 700 or so firefighters because “property can be replaced, life can’t.”

The governor also emphasized the need for the public to listen to the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3 for updates and to be aware of scammers calling for personal information to donate to the victims and firefighters.

“Don’t listen to blogs,” Martinez said. “Please don’t give your bank accounts, nothing. Don’t evacuate until you’re told to evacuate.”

Tony Deflin, state forester for the New Mexico State Forestry, also explained how the incident management team, with the guidance of Type I Hot Shots, is flanking the fire at the top and bottom of it.

“The acreage is derived from the Infrared flight,” Deflin said.

The state forester encourages the public to visit www.facebook/assaayilakefire or the Incident Information System website at updates on the fire.

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, the incident management team hadn’t posted any updates on the growth of the fire or how much has been contained.

With no new updates, the fire is at 12,107 acres and zero containment.

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