ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Firefighters are bracing for another day of hot, dry and windy conditions as they battle a fast-moving wildfire that has consumed thousands of acres of pinon and juniper forest along with traditional grazing lands that Navajo families depend on to raise sheep and other livestock.
The Assayii Lake Fire blackened more than 19 square miles in less than two days while making its way across summer and winter grazing areas in the Chuska Mountains, east of the Arizona-New Mexico border.
The flames destroyed at least four structures and threatened about 50 homes near the communities of Naschitti and Sheep Springs, fire officials said. Authorities were urging Navajo families to refrain from heading into the mountains to search for their sheep and other livestock.
The Navajo Nation’s Department of Agriculture has been busy rounding up trailers to move some of the livestock corralled and brought down from the mountain before the fire made its run Monday. Some Navajo families took to social media to ask for hay and water donations.
In California, diminishing winds helped firefighters surround 85 percent of a blaze burning near Lake Isabella in the southern Sierra Nevada.
Residents were told they could return to about 1,000 mountain homes. The blaze destroyed three houses and damaged another. At least two of the burned houses appeared to be abandoned, the U.S. Forest Service said.