FORT DEFIANCE, ARIZ. — The Assayii Lake Fire could be downgraded from a Type 2 fire to a Type 3 fire by Thursday.
Lance Elmore, an incident commander trainee, said on Monday that the transition could occur as early as Thursday morning.
The federal Incident Command System categorizes fires from Type 1, a major natural disaster or fire, to Type 5, a small non-complex wildfire.
Elmore made his remarks during an update on the fire and its containment progress on Monday at the Tsehootsooi Middle School in Fort Defiance.
The incident command post is located across the street from the school in the Fort Defiance Field House.
The Assayii Lake Fire, which started on June 13, is now 65 percent contained and the number of acres consumed by the fire remains at 14,712.
According to a press release from the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3, firefighters continued to construct and secure fire lines as well as fire line rehabilitation, including cutting down tress and chipping logs and limbs to decrease the amount and size of fuel on the ground.
Work is also continuing to reduce hot areas along the fire's edge that are smoldering and producing smoke.
Smoke from the fire's interior will continue to appear with the hot and dry weather conditions, according to the press release.
New Mexico Highway 134, which travels from Sheep Springs to Crystal, has reopened but forest roads that travel south of the highway remain closed, said Patricia Bean, public information officer for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Bean said.
Summer school at Newcomb High and Newcomb Middle schools will resume on Tuesday after closing last week due to smoke from the fire, according to a press release from the Central Consolidated School District.
Rose Whitehair, director of the Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management, said during the update that all shelters were closed with the exception of the one in Naschitti Chapter, which continues to house two people.
Naschitti Chapter president Hoskie Bryant confirmed that the Naschitti shelter remains in operation.
In regards to food donations made to shelter in schools in Newcomb and Tohatchi, Whitehair said the school districts requested that the department remove those items from the facilities.
"We're not going to leave food in an empty shelter," she said. "If we leave food in an empty shelter that food is going to go bad. So we want to make sure it is inventoried and tracked correctly."
Whitehair also addressed the issue and the rumors concerning donations made to the chapters affected by the fire.
"The problem we have been facing is people believing Facebook as fact," she said.
In an interview Monday evening, Whitehair again iterated that donations were not being taken by tribal officials.
She explained that the incident commander at Tohatchi and the Tohatchi High School principal contacted the emergency management department about closing the shelter on Friday.
The decision to close the Tohatchi shelter was because no evacuees used the facility for two nights and the school needed to prepare for its summer programs.
The perishable food donations at Tohatchi were relocated to Newcomb so it could be prepared for families that were staying there, she said.
Non-perishable items were taken to the Fort Defiance Chapter house because the items could be inventoried and there was adequate space to store those items, she said.
The donations occupy the entire main area of the chapter house and arrange from cases of bottled water to clothing, medical supplies, and paper towels.
Other rumors Whitehair and the department had to debunk focused on reports of burned livestock, fatalities and Newcomb Chapter being ordered to evacuate.
"It is all false," she said then added that 30 percent of her department's resources were spent addressing false information and disputing rumors.
"If you don't dispute it, it gets to the point where it is," Whitehair said.
As for the donations now housed in Fort Defiance, Whitehair said those items will be delivered to those individuals who were affected and displaced by the fire.
The department is working with case managers from the impacted chapters to help identify individuals and families in addition to working with lists naming evacuees, she said.