FARMINGTON — The Assayii Lake Fire, which is now about 60 percent contained, has reached 14,712 acres, according to Charlie Armiger, a public information officer for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3.
The blaze started on June 13 in the Ch'ooshgai Mountains, and its cause, which is suspected to be human, is under investigation.
As of 8 a.m. Sunday, N.M. Highway 134 and all areas to the north will reopen, according to an evening update from the incident management team. The five access roads south of Highway 134 will still be closed. Access to east of U.S. Highway 491 will open, and certain areas to the west of the highway will reopen. The area around the fire will still be closed.
· The public can enter Road 6690 south of N.M. Highway 134 but cannot travel west of Road 708. They may travel back east to Highway 491 and also travel east of Road 6690.
· The Roads 705 and 714 are open to the beginning of the ponderosa pines but not beyond. Firefighters are working in the area, and no further access will be allowed.
· Road 691 is open. Road 701 is open until it intersects Road 720. At the intersection, travel is allowed south to Road 703 but not west on Road 720. Travel is prohibited west of Road 701 on Road 703. The public can travel the loop back east to Road 491. All roads east of these locations are open to homeowners only.
· Law enforcement will be in these areas to control closures.
Source: Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3
Armiger said lighter winds on Saturday and helicopters dropping water and fire retardant have helped crews get a handle on the fire.
"There's a lot of work that was done prior to the wind stopping," he said.
Over the last week, crews have completed work that made it easier for firefighters to get the blaze under control on Saturday. Crews on Friday completed protective burning on the southern end of the fire, leading to more visible smoke.
Firefighters on Saturday worked to strengthen containment lines and extend them on the fire's southern and eastern sides. They also worked to extinguish hot spots and cut down dangerous trees.
More interior smoke will continue to appear as winds pick up and push the blaze into unburned areas inside the fire's perimeter, according to a press release from the management team.
The blaze has been fueled by piñon pine, juniper, ponderosa pine and brush.
Livestock have been found near the fire. Contact the Navajo Nation Emergency Operations Center at 505-371-8406 to arrange an escort to the animals.
So far, five structures have been destroyed in the fire, according to the incident management team.
Meanwhile, there's been an outpouring of donations from San Juan County residents. Volunteers on Saturday set up a donation truck outside of San Juan College's Summer Music Festival.
The college on Friday sent a truckload of supplies — including food, toiletries and blankets — to fire victims and crews.
Bernice Gonzales, a scholarship adviser for the college, gathered donations on Saturday. Among the items already in the truck were blankets, toilet paper, nonperishable food and toiletries.
"We all have friends, relatives out there," Gonzales said.