6/17/2014 3:07:00 PM Asaayii Lake fire on Navajo Nation forces evacuations in Sheep Springs and Naschitti More than 17 square miles burned as fire grows
The Asaayii Lake fire burns near Sheep Springs and Naschitti on the Navajo Nation. Submitted photo
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz.- More than 11,000 acres have burned on the Navajo Nation after an unattended fire near Asaayii Lake got out of control on June 13 around 3:30 p.m.
Authorities are evacuating families in Sheep Springs and Naschitti because of fire danger and limited visibility from excessive smoke. Travelers are encouraged to avoid the area.
On June 12, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly issued an executive order calling for fire restrictions based on the advice of the Navajo Nation Forestry Department.
Forestry officials were preparing for the high fire danger caused by low precipitation, high wind conditions, low humidity and high temperatures.
On June 16, the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management declared a state of emergency because of the Assayii Lake Fire. President Shelly signed the declaration.
"I direct all Navajo divisions, departments and programs to commit resources to the Assayii Lake Fire. We need to do all we can to stop the fire from spreading further," President Shelly said.
He said tribal employees are working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Region to battle the blaze since the fire began. This included participation in several meetings over the past two days to mobilize forces to battle the blaze.
"Please use caution when traveling near the fire area. The heavy smoke makes it difficult to see and breathe," Shelly said. "We are asking that the general public comply with the fire restriction. This is especially important because of the Fourth of July holiday right around the corner and the prevalence of fireworks."
Hotshot crews from Arizona are working with the Navajo Scouts to fight the fire.
Limited visibility and heavy winds have prevented crews from effectively fighting the fire. Wind gusts are currently between 60 to 70 mph, restricting any aerial crews from dropping flame retardant materials on the fire.
More than 700 personnel were expected to battle the blaze last night. Black Mesa, Blue Ridge, Ft. Apache, Globe, Mesa, Mormon Lake, Navajo, Payson, Prescott, Mt. Taylor and Zuni Hotshots are on location fighting the fire.