Assayii Lake Fire showing signs of fatigue

By Terry Bowman
Navajo Times

FORT DEFIANCE, June 20, 2014

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As of Friday morning, firefighters assisting with the Assáyii Lake Fire had contained 20 percent of the fire that has damaged an estimated 13, 482 acres, with no injuries to report, according to the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3.

Command Center requests donations to cease

WINDOW ROCK, June 20, 2014

“We are running out of space,” said Rose Whitehair, Director of Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management, referring to the abundance of donations for victims of the Assayii Lake Fire.

The press release from the Assayii Lake Fire Command states, “The Navajo Nation Assayii Lake Fire Command Center is working directly with Incident Command Operations at Emergency Operations Center in Navajo Division of Transportation.  A hold on all incoming donations has been ordered.”

“We have received large shipments by air and truckloads from all over,” she added when explaining that the command center, chapters and volunteers cannot keep up with the barrage of incoming donations.

They need time to inspect, organize and inventory the donated resources for accountability and to quickly distribute the donations to the community. 

Donation management is critical for safety issues and effective distribution, the press release adds. 

Whitehair encourages people to volunteer in the management of the donations and to relieve volunteers who have been working since the beginning of the fire. 

Contact Emergency Operations Center for information about the Assayii Lake Fire at 505-371-8415/16/17.  Inquire at local chapters for volunteer opportunities.  

"It has been a good couple of days," said Incident Operations Commander Bea Day. Day explained to the group that with winds calming down, the SWA Incident Team has been able to utilize more air support.

With air tankers and helicopters dropping fire retardant on the eastern and southern sides of the fire near Assayii Lake, fire crews have been able to stop the fire from spreading west, according to Dan Sullivan, Air Operations Branch Director.

"We had air tankers yesterday and all our helicopters helping our guys out," said Sullivan who mentioned that there have been two air bases established in Gallup, N.M. and in Window Rock, Ariz. hosting all of the team’s aircraft.

The next plan of action, according to the SWA Incident Management Team, is to reinforce all sides of the fire and eliminate any dry vegetation to keep the fire from spreading from its north and south sides.

Air support from the air tankers and helicopters will also be in use.

With the monsoons still at least a month away, the dry climate could make it difficult for crews if the fire breaches the fire lines, according to Day.

With the fire being 20 percent contained, four fire crews along with a couple of fire engines have been released in order to allow firefighters to prepare for more fires, and to minimize the cost of resources used to fight the fire, which is now an estimated $3.5 million, according to Day.

Hotshot crews from Payson, Zuni and Mount Taylor were realeased Friday morning, Day said.

Livestock are a huge concern among local residents who have not been allowed back in the Chuska Mountains to collect their cattle, according to safety officer Dan Chapman.

The SWA Incident Team has reported that no livestock has been seen damaged or reported injured.

"We saw some cattle and sheep running around near the Whiskey Lake area, but none harmed," said Chapman.

Travelers are not permitted to travel on access roads leading to the Bowl Canyon Recreation Area. Roads closed in the area are N134 at Sheep Springs to Crystal Boarding School, N31, and N30 at Mexican Springs.

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