Navajo Nation imposes fire restrictions due to drought, increased fire activity

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation is under Stage 1 fire restrictions because of drought conditions and recent heavy wildfire activity across the tribal land.

The fire restrictions are outlined in an executive order signed on May 14 by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and other officials, including Francis Holiday, acting director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Region.

"The Navajo Nation has already experienced several fires this year that have threatened homes, farms, wildlife and other areas," the release states.

On May 2, the Salt Creek Fire was detected in northwest Shiprock. It eventually burned 422 acres of Russian olive, salt cedar, brush and grass.

More:Fire west of Bloomfield has burned 21 acres, destroyed one residence

Two smaller fires occurred the same week near the San Juan River bridge in Shiprock.

"Everyone has a responsibility to use extreme caution and to abide by the fire restrictions that are now in place to protect our lands and communities and to help prevent the loss of wildlife and human life," President Nez said.

"The Navajo Nation has already had several wildfires in recent weeks that could've caused much more damage if it weren't for the quick and collaborative response of our first responders from various agencies," he said. He then encouraged the public to read the fire restrictions.

New fire restrictions on the Navajo Nation aim to prevent wildfires. In this file photo, fire from the Wood Springs 2 blaze burns alongside Navajo Route 7 on July 1, 2020 in an area west of Sawmill, Arizona.

The executive order prohibits the possession, manufacturing, sale or use of fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices.

Also banned is building, maintaining, attending to or using fire, campfire, charcoal and coal. An exception is when campfires are used in developed sites that have fire rings or grills provided.

Using firearms or incendiary devices without valid permits is forbidden.

People are warned to use extreme caution when smoking.

The document outlines the types of fire activity allowed, including using propane, gas or other petroleum-fueled stoves for branding livestock.

More:Farmington City, San Juan County will stop issuing burn permits as drought deepens

Fires used for ceremonial purposes are allowed. However, the action must be registered and permitted by the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency at least five days before the ceremony.

To obtain a burn registration, contact the Navajo Nation EPA Air Quality at 928-729-4246 or by mail to NN Air Quality, PO Box 529, Fort Defiance, AZ 86504.

The registration process can also be completed by fax to 928-729-4323 or by email to kaelynnmorgan@navajo-nsn.gov.

The executive order went into effect immediately and will be in effect until rescinded or amended.

"Any person or parties found guilty of violating the fire restrictions may be fined up to $5,000 or provide restitution," the order states.

To report wildfires, contact the BIA Fire Dispatch at 928-729-2307.

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.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.