Salt Creek Fire near Shiprock remains at 422 acres and at 60% containment

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Firefighters have secured the perimeter of the Salt Creek Fire near Shiprock, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Wildland Fire Management Navajo Region reported in an update this evening.

The agency reported at 6:04 p.m. on May 3 that the fire saw no growth and remains at 422 acres. Containment is now 60%.

"Fire behavior was minimal with smoke primarily coming from smoldering heavy fuels that were deep in the interior. The area did not receive any precipitation," the update states.

Three fire engines and the Navajo Scouts module secured a critical portion of the fire that was still holding heat.

One fire engine and Navajo Hotshots firefighters secured a five-acre spot on the Gadii'ahi side of the creek.

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Smoke could be visible in surrounding communities and might settle into low-lying areas at night.

The fire is in the area known as Mesa Farm and consists of residences and farmland. The evacuation for residents has been lifted and the Mesa Farm Road has reopened.

Smoke rises from the Salt Creek Fire on May 2 in the Mesa Farm area in Shiprock.

"We are asking the public to drive with caution and reduce their speed as fire resources will still be working in the area," the update states.

Navajo Police Department spokeswoman Christina Tsosie said the fire was reported to the department at approximately 1 a.m. on May 2.

Chantel Herrick, public information officer with the Navajo Region for BIA Wildland Fire Management, said the area was visited by a fire investigator on May 2.

"It was determined the cause was human. However, we do not have the specific cause of the fire," Herrick said.

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There were no injuries or deaths reported, but two outbuildings and one abandoned house were destroyed.

Shiprock Chapter Secretary-Treasurer J. Kaibah Begay said chapter officials and personnel have been working with fire and rescue agencies to help firefighters with meals and space to meet.

The chapter house was open for anyone displaced by the fire and a representative from the Red Cross was at the building on May 2 to assist residents, Begay said.

An area in Shiprock burned by the Salt Creek Fire is seen the afternoon of May 2.

Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton lives in the Mesa Farm area. She explained that she and her husband were asleep when a Navajo Police officer knocked on their front door at about 1 a.m. and told them about the fire.

The fire was behind their home and they worked throughout the night to keep their property safe, she said adding she eventually went to Northern Navajo Medical Center for smoke inhalation.

"All we could do was keep the ground wet. You could feel the heat from the fire. You could see how big the fire was," she said.

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Charles-Newton represents Shiprock Chapter on the Navajo Nation Council. Later in the day, she met with families impacted by the fire.

While they were grateful no one was hurt by the fire, they were concerned about livestock, including the loss of resources such as hay and corrals, she said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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