Assayii Lake Fire 100 percent contained

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

NASCHITTI, N.M., July 3, 2014

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The 14,712 acre Assayii Lake Fire is 100 percent contained, according to Rose Whitehair, director for the Navajo Department of Emergency Management, and the BIA Navajo Fire Management Office.

With the news of the fire being 100 percent contained Thursday, the Navajo Nation Emergency Operations Center will now demobilize.  Containment, however, does not mean the fire is controlled or fully out, Whitehair said.

Also on Thursday, Whitehair stated that roads N 8000 from Navajo, N.M. to Mexican Springs, N.M., and N 7110 from Crystal, N.M. to Asaayi Lake are now open to the public. Both routes allow for the public to enter the Asaayi Lake in the Bowl Canyon Recreation Area. (The spelling of Assayii Lake Fire refers to the 14,712 acre blaze that was dubbed by the Southwest Incident Management Team that commanded the fire, while Asaayi Lake refers to the actual lake in the Bowl Canyon Recreation Area).

“These are the only open roads in the area,” Whitehair said in a July 3 press release from her office.

She also reported that access into the burned area from the Assayii Lake Fire is still restricted because of several hazards that could harm individuals.

“Trees are falling in the area and there are undetectable stump holes in the ground that people or horses could step in and get severely hurt,” she added. “No one should enter the burned fire areas."

Navajo Department of Emergency Management officials also encourage local livestock owners to communicate and follow up on their needs with local grazing and chapter officials to obtain authorized access, according to the press release.

Whitehair also discourages the public from swimming in the lakes because of the potential of drowning and flash flooding from the seasonal monsoon, especially in the wildfire damage zone of the Asaayi Lake.

Over the holiday weekend, Navajo Nation Rangers and Navajo Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers will be patrolling the fire perimeter and enforcing the June 12 fire restriction issued by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.

In a separate press release from his office, Shelly reaffirmed the fire restriction, as well as the tribal ban of fireworks on the reservation, because of the extreme drought conditions and the potential for fire.

“Because of the dry conditions of our land and the recent challenges associated with the Assayii Lake Fire, I have given the directive to restrict all fireworks on the Nation, including the Fourth of July celebration at the fairgrounds,” Shelly said.

As ordered, there will be no fireworks displayed during the 28th Annual Fourth of July Fouth Celebration and PRCA Pro Rodeo, he said.
Shelly also noted that the cost of the Assayii Lake Fire is in excess of $8 million. “The Nation cannot afford another fire,” he said.
Information: Contact BIA Navajo Fire Management Dispatch at 928-729-2307.

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