FARMINGTON — The Assayii Lake Fire on Thursday was downgraded to a Type 3 blaze, and a Southwest Area Interagency Type 3 Team is now managing the fire.
The team is comprised of firefighters from federal, state and local agencies. The team's incident commander is Leon Ben Jr. with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Western Regional Office in Phoenix.
According to the federal Incident Command System, a Type 5 fire is the least complex while a Type 1 fire is the most complex. At its peak, the Assayii Lake Fire was classified as a Type 2 fire.
The new interagency team replaced the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3. The incident command post location continues to be at the Fort Defiance Field House in Fort Defiance, Ariz.
As of 8:45 p.m. Thursday, the fire is 90 percent contained. The blaze has scorched 14,712 acres since its start two weeks ago in the Ch'ooshgai Mountains on the Navajo Nation.
Isolated pockets of fuel in the fire's interior may continue to burn in the upcoming days and weeks until monsoon rains extinguish the fire. Fire officials warn smoke may be visible during this time.
The National Weather Service forecasted wind gusts up to 32 miles per hour for the area on Thursday. Despite the increased wind, minimal fire behavior was anticipated, according to a press release from the Southwest Area Interagency Type 3 Team.
The Navajo Nation Emergency Operations Center announced on Thursday night that because of because of high winds, the fire zone will be closed Friday to residents, livestock owners and the public. The area is not safe for travel because high winds increase the likelihood of falling trees.
All roads into the fire area are closed.
A fire restriction on all tribal land remains in effect.
At the suggestion of the Navajo Nation Forestry Department, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly issued the restriction on June 12 — one day before the Assayii Lake Fire's start — because of the high fire danger. The danger stemmed from a combination of low precipitation, high wind conditions, high temperatures and low humidity.
The restriction prohibits a number of things on tribal forest and woodland areas, including building, maintaining and attending to open fires; open burning of croplands, fields, rangelands, debris and weeds; livestock branding; using firearms or incendiary devices without a valid permit; operating combustion engines without a spark arrestor; smoking cigarettes, pipes, cigars or other materials; and using welding or operating acetylene or other torch devices with an open flame.
It is a violation of tribal law to possess, discharge, manufacture, sell or use fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices, according to the restriction.
To start a ceremonial fire, people must first obtain a burn permit from the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Control Program. To obtain a burn permit, call the program at 928-729-4156.