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Fire on Navajo grazing grounds in New Mexico continues to grow

Fire destroys more than 13,000 acres of traditional Navajo grazing lands in New Mexico.

The Assayii Lake fire continued to grow on traditional Navajo grazing land in New Mexico as firefighters braced for another day of gusting winds that are expected to hinder efforts to contain the blaze.

In a posting on Facebook, firefighters said the blaze remained uncontained as Wednesday began. More than 13,000 acres have been destroyed along with four structures, officials said.

At least 685 firefighters are at the scene of the blaze, including 19 crews, 21 engines, nine helicopters and three bulldozers. The plan is for firefighters to continue building a direct line along the west side of the fire and to work on a similar line on the east, weather permitting.

Weather remains the key factor, and while predictions are for a better day than Tuesday, winds are still expected to reach 18 to 22 mph with gusts up to 32 mph. “With warming and drying, we anticipate another day of extreme fire behavior,” officials stated.

Officials will investigate the cause of the wildfire, located about 10 miles northeast of Navajo, N.M. The fire is being blamed on human activity although the exact cause is still to be determined.

The fast-moving fire has moved through piñon forests and traditional summer and winter grazing land for sheep and other livestock in the Chuska Mountains, east of the Arizona border with New Mexico.

About 50 residences have been threatened and evacuations have been ordered for those in the path of the fire. Authorities said they have checked sheep camps in the hills and evacuated some people on Sunday and Monday.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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