Navajo Fire Nearly Contained

Source: Indian Country Today

Hope was in the air along with the smoke on Sunday June 22 as firefighters all but put out the bulk of the Assayii Lake Fire on the Navajo Nation.

Although the fire had grown to 14,712 acres from 13,450, the number of personnel required to fight it dropped to 597, down from last week’s 867, according to InciWeb. And by Sunday June 22 the blaze was 60 percent contained.

RELATED: State of Emergency on Navajo Nation as Assayii Lake Fire Exceeds 13,000 Acres

“They’re going through and trying to identify any hot spots at all to the point where they’re digging and taking off their glove and feeling it to make sure it has cooled completely down,” fire information officer Patricia Bean told the Associated Press. “We’re definitely on the uphill end of this fire in terms of positive things.”

Just a few days earlier the fire, which started on June 13, had only been 20 percent contained. But as of Sunday residents of evacuated communities were slowly being let back in, and some roads were reopening. Navajo Nation officials, ranchers and residents headed into the Chuska Mountains, where the fire was located, over the weekend to round up livestock that had been trapped or had scattered when the blaze struck.

Though not huge by some standards—the 2011 Wallow fire, for example, scorched 469,000 acres, the largest in Arizona history—the Assayii Lake fire torched sheep camps and endangered grazing land in the sacred mountains.

RELATED: Navajo’s Assayii Lake Fire: Heartbreaking Losses, and How to Help

Here, as the flames die down, we bring you some riveting photos of the flames, the smoke and the heroic efforts to quell them.