Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Navajo Nation implements Stage 1 fire restrictions, high fire danger, drought conditions, and potential flooding threat

Navajo Nation implements Stage 1 fire restrictions, high fire danger, drought conditions, and potential flooding threat

By Donovan Quintero
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK — To protect public safety and prevent wildland fires, the Buu Nygren and Richelle Montoya Administration, issued, last week, a Stage I Fire Restriction Order on Navajo lands effective immediately.

The executive order prohibits several activities within the Navajo Nation, including the possession, sale, or use of fireworks and other pyrotechnics. Additionally, open fires, smoking in unauthorized areas, and the use of firearms without a valid permit are strictly prohibited under this order.

While some activities are banned, others may be carried out with extreme caution. For instance, the use of propane, gas, or petroleum-fueled stoves is permitted for specific purposes such as livestock branding and in designated recreational areas. Ceremonial fires must be registered with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency at least five days before the ceremony.

Violation of the fire restrictions may result in fines of up to $5,000 or require restitution, according to the executive order. The Division of Public Safety, the Division of Natural Resources, NEPA, the Division of Community Development, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Region Branch of Fire Management have been tasked with enforcing this executive order.

The Stage I Fire Restrictions will remain in effect until further notice from the president. Residents and visitors are urged to exercise caution and adhere to the guidelines to minimize the risk of wildfires on Navajo lands.

The confluence of high fire danger, prolonged megadrought, and the looming threat of heavy rainfall underscores the complexity of the challenges facing the Navajo Nation.

As the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire and Aviation Management elevates its vigilance level in response to the ‘high’ fire danger rating, residents and visitors are urged to exercise caution and comply with the fire restrictions to prevent catastrophic wildfire outbreaks.

On April 11, a wildfire ignited in the Dotson Pond area west of the boarding school. Presently, Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management resources are actively involved in suppressing the fire to thwart its expansion, managing hazard trees, and addressing hot spots. Fire personnel will remain on-site throughout the weekend. The fire has been completely contained. The fire’s origin is under investigation as the cause remains undetermined. Every measure is being implemented to ensure the safety of both the public and firefighters.

On April 21, a wildfire broke out in Shiprock along the Truck Route Road. Currently, Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management resources are on-site engaged in suppression operations to prevent fire escalation and extinguish hot spots. Efforts are being made to achieve full containment today. The cause of the fire is under investigation, and all necessary actions are being taken to safeguard the safety of the public and firefighting personnel.

In 2023, the Bureau of Indian Affairs witnessed a staggering number of wildfires, surpassing 2,633 blazes that originated on their protected lands or nearby private properties. The total area devastated by these fires amounted to approximately 192,800 acres, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
The restrictions prohibit fireworks from being used on the Navajo Nation and will be enforced by several tribal divisions and departments, the executive order stated.


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