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Officials report 5 percent containment of Navajo Nation fire

A wildfire burns in the Chuska Mountains west of Naschitti, N.M., on June 17.  (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)
A wildfire burns in the Chuska Mountains west of Naschitti, N.M., on June 17. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)
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Firefighters expect light winds today as they work to contain a 13,448-acre wildfire in the Navajo Nation’s Chuska Mountains north of Gallup, officials said this morning.

About 840 firefighters will continue to build fire lines with the help of bulldozers as 10 helicopters drop water on the Assayii Lake Fire, named for a lake about five miles southeast of Crystal, N.M., where the fire was first reported Friday.

Containment was estimated at 5 percent this morning, according to a written statement issued by Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3.

The fire has displaced sheep and cattle ranchers who graze livestock in the mountains each summer. A Navajo Nation official said an assessment of livestock deaths likely will not be completed until after the fire is contained.

Navajo Nation police enforcing road closures in the rugged Chuska Mountains report that they have turned away ranchers eager to move or check on livestock left behind during the fire.

Wind speeds under 10 mph are expected today, but hot, dry weather will continue. Strong winds and drought conditions have hampered firefighting efforts much of this week.

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