FARMINGTON – A wildfire was detected in the Chuska Mountains, northwest of the town of Tohatchi on the Navajo Nation over the weekend.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Region Wildland Fire and Aviation Management announced it was responding with suppression efforts to the 6.5-acre fire Saturday. Tohatchi, about an hour and a half drive south of Farmington, is a small town on the Navajo Nation and near Chuska Peak.
As of Monday morning, the fire had grown to 10.2 acres, according to the Navajo Region Wildland Fire dispatch. The wildfire was about 10% contained.
Crews were on-site working to limit the spread of the fire but were faced with rough terrain and limited access, according to the dispatch.
Navajo Region Wildland Fire warned smoke from burning debris within the fire would be visible. The Chuska Mountain range crosses the Arizona-New Mexico line, with a highest elevation of 10,000 feet.
In June 2014, the Assayii Lake Fire burned more than 14,000 acres in the Chuska Mountains north of Tohachi before it was contained a month later, according to a report by the Navajo Times.
On Monday, a Navajo Nation fire restriction was in place with open burning banned because of a wind advisory and red flag warning until 7 p.m.
The National Weather Service also issued a red flag warning for all of northern and western New Mexico with up to 20 to 30 mph winds with gusts around 45 mph expected. The Weather Service warned that any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly, and outdoor burning is not recommended.
All residents were encouraged to avoid the wildfire area because of the hazardous terrain and spread of the fire. Navajo Region Wildland Fire also asked the public to avoid access roads and trails near the wildfire to protect themselves and firefighters from the possible spread of COVID-19.
The Navajo Nation remains one of the hardest hit areas in the country from the novel coronavirus. On Sunday, there were 102 new cases reported and three more deaths related to COVID-19. The Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Epidemiology Center and Navajo Area Indian Health Service report 6,020 cases and 277 deaths related to the coronavirus. The health agencies estimate 2,727 people have contracted the virus and have recovered.