GALLUP, N.M. (KRQE) – A wildfire on the Navajo Nation exploded Monday causing the evacuation of hundreds of people.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly issued a state of emergency for The Asayii Fire which is burning in the Chuska Mountains north of Gallup. It doubled in size Monday and has grown to more than 10,000 acres.
Heavy smoke has caused tribal police to issue an evacuation order Monday for the 400 people who live in the Naschitti and Sheep Springs Area.
The flames are rushing completely unchecked through dry pinon, juniper and brush. Winds were so strong that planes and helicopters couldn’t fly Monday and smoke was invading the area. Tree tops were torching, flames were spotting well ahead of the main blaze and all fire crews have been pulled from out front of it for their own safety.
The Regional Federal Fire Management Team has taken over and is overseeing the firefighting effort with more than 250 firefighters, including the Navajo hot shot crew .
Another 650 firefighters are on the way.
High winds have caused problems for firefighters. According to the National Weather Service, winds in the Four Corners area are expected to be strong throughout the daytime hours over the next few days resulting in reduced smoke, haze and odor.
They were hoping to get a better idea of the size of the fire Monday night when using infrared mapping.
The fire could get a lot worse because critical fire weather is expected through Wednesday.
Officials say a man burning weeds started the blaze. It’s unclear if he will face charges.