YouTube Video: Day 6 – Assayii Lake Fire Update

This YouTube VIDEO is about the June 18, 2014, update of the Assayii Lake Fire by the Southwest Incident Management Team 3 at Tse Hootso Middle School “Tin Building” in Fort Definance, Ariz.

On June 18, 2014, Southwest Incident Management Team 3 Liason Officer Ben Fisk opened the daily briefing on Assayii Lake Fire, which started on June 13, 2014, about ten miles northeast of Navajo, N.M. The Assayii Lake Fire is on the Navajo Reservation.

SW Incident Management Team 3 Operations Section Director Dave Gesser reported that the fire had grown to 13, 250 acres. The evening of June 17, 2014, fire information officers reported that the fire was at 12,107 acres.

Gesser reported that the fire growth was in the southeast are of the fire and that it ran over into Lost Lake, where it stopped. The other fire growth area was on the eastern end, he said.

One of the priorities of the firefighters is the Crystal water shed and structures, which is being protected by firefighters, Gesser explained. The firefighters are also “mopping up” around the structures.

He noted that the firefighters would be directly attacking the fire today if the predicted reduction in winds occurs. But if high winds do come then the firefighters will have to back down, he added.

High winds for the past several days have prevented the firefighters from directly attacking the fire.

On the east side of the fire, dozers have been successfully in building a fire line, Gesser said.

He reiterated that the firefighters understand the importance of the structures and livestock to the local community and so they are monitoring the fire to identify when it would be safe enough for residents to check on their homes and livestock.

QUESTION from Flora Ben of Navajo Nation Broadcast Services: Any homes destroyed or livestock killed?
Gesser answers that two structures were destroyed and that he has no information about livestock.

QUESTION from audience: Is there a number to report wildlife/animals that are fleeing from fire and entering communities? Individual said that there was bear cub in one of the communities.
Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife staff said that they had taken care of the bear cub, which was found in the Tohatchi, N.M. community. The public is asked to contact the tribal fish and wildlife office regarding wildlife/animals by calling 928-871-6451.

Gesser said that firefighters did a really job on the south side of the fire, which could result in the SW Incident Management Team 3 reporting later today, June 18, 2014, that the Assayii Lake Fire is five percent contained.

ANNOUNCEMENT by Navajo Nation Agriculture Department that they are available to assist families impacted by the fire in transporting their livestock out of harm’s way.
Gesser emphasizes that the transportation of livestock in and around the fire by the tribal agriculture department must be coordinated with the SWIMT 3 liasons, who would be informed by the Fire Operations Section when it is safe to go in and remove livestock.

ANNOUNCEMENT by Navajo Nation Community Health Representatives that they were working with Navajo Nation rangers to evacuate families from Narbona Pass yesterday afternoon, June 17, 2014.

Gesser said that the reduction in wind today, June 18, 2014, is allowing air support to fight the fire today. He pointed to the fire map and said that helicopters are in the interior of the fire and on the south side of it, which allows the firefighters to do a direct attack on the fire on the south side.

“We’re hoping to get them flying all day today,” he noted.

SWIMT 3 Safety Officer Trainee reported that there were no injuries.

QUESTION by public about whether more heavy equipment will be used?
Gesser said two more dozers have arrived, which brings the total number of dozers to six. And he said that there are three more Type 2 wildland fire fighting crews arriving.

And he said that a “very large air tanker” has been requested. The air tankers are used to drop fire retardant on the fire.

Navajo Nation Emergency Management Liason Rose Whitehair reported that with the assistance of the SWIMT 3 that a fly over of the fire was arranged for Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, N.M. Gov. Susana Martinez and tribal Vice President Rex Lee Jim yesterday, June 17, 2014.

Whitehair said that the fire is not as devastating as what she pictured in her mind. The fire has not entirely scorched the area; it’s hot spots here and there, she said.

Red Cross is assisting us with donations and volunteers are also helping, she said.

Whitehair pointed out that all law enforcement agencies, including the Navajo Nation. are working with SWIMT 3 Security Manager Will Burner.

Burner said that his section is working with law enforcement agencies to keep people out of the fire area and to keep the paved and unpaved roads free of local traffic.

The fire vehicles are pretty huge and if there is unexpected local traffic on those unpaved road, which are very narrow, it can put the firefighters and civilians at risk, he explained.

Whitehair said that she was with the Shelly, Martinez and Jim when they landed at Newcomb School which is a “stellar” example of an evacuation center.

As she spoke about talking with community members, she became very emotional. “Of course it’s heartbreaking because it’s our land and homes,” Whitehair said.

But she said the communities are all very thankful.

SWIMT 3 Commander Bea Day said that there are more questions about structures and so today is a good opportunity for the team to do assessments and report back.

Today the winds are still high but not as high as last couple of days, Day said. She explained that when you see black line on the fire map that that shows where the fire has been contained.

All you see is read and the red shows that the fire is uncontained, Day added.

She said that the chapters have been very helpful and supportive. And there were evacuations, but not from Crystal, she emphasized.

If announcements and statements about evacuations are not generated from the SWIMT 3 then it is not supported by the SWIMT 3, Day said.

QUESTION from Navajo Broadcast Services about lost pets due to fire.
Tribal Emergency Management Liason Rose Whitehair says that the tribal agriculture department, Fort Defiance Chapter and tribal Fish and Wildlife Department are helping with lost pets to house the pets.

The Navajo Agricultural Products Industry is helping with hay and feed for livestock owned by people impacted by the fire, Whitehair said.

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