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Related story: Wildfire on Navajo Nation land grows as communities evacuate

Wildfires
Wildfire on Navajo Nation land grows to 12,000 acres as communities evacuate
Winds in excess of 65 mph ground aircraft, hampering battle against fire on Navajo lands
Navajo Nation Pres. declared state of emergency as wildfire grows

A wildfire burning on Navajo Nation land near the New Mexico-Arizona border spread to 12,000 acres Tuesday morning and is expected to grow as gusts hit 50 mph in the fire area, officials said.

The Assayii Lake fire, which was first reported Friday, is 0% contained and growing. 

An evacuation order has been issued for Navajo communities in the Sheep Springs and Naschitti areas. Approximately 50 residences are threatened by the fire and four structures have been destroyed, officials said

Winds in excess of 65 mph hampered firefighting efforts Monday and officials predicted "extreme fire behavior" in the fire area Tuesday. 

"Our aircraft have been grounded daily," said Charlie Armiger, a fire information officer for the Forest Service. "We haven't been able to use our helicopters today either, the winds are just too strong."

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly declared a state of emergency Monday after the fire swelled overnight from 1,000 acres to 10,000 acres. 

“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,” Shelly said in a statement. 

The general public is encouraged not to travel on access roads leading to the Bowl Canyon Recreation Area. Road closures in the area are Route 134 at Sheep Springs to Crystal Boarding School and Route 30 at Mexican Springs.

Follow @jpanzar for breaking news.

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