ALBUQUERQUE, NM - Hundreds of firefighters took advantage of favorable weather conditions Thursday to make more progress against a blaze that has consumed more than 21 square miles of forest and grazing land on the Navajo Nation.
The Assayii Lake Fire has destroyed at least five structures and many Navajo families have concerns about the fate of their sheep camps in the Chuska Mountains, just east of the Arizona-New Mexico border.
Fire officials said about 50 homes near the rural communities of Naschitti (NAZ'-chit-ee) and Sheep Springs remained threatened, but crews have managed to contain 5 percent of the fire.
News of the progress spread quickly among Navajos, many of whom have taken to social media in the days since the human-caused fire was first reported to call for donations of hay for livestock, water and prayers.
Gladys Plummer, a Navajo medicine healer, made the same plea at a public meeting this week. She asked local traditional healers and others from different faiths to help her in prayer, the Navajo Times reported Thursday.
Plummer's hands shook while she performed a ritual and offered a song of protection and prayer for the communities affected by the fire, the forest and the wildlife.
"Just love one another," she said told the community members at the meeting.
Crews used bulldozers Thursday to build containment lines on the fire's northeastern and southern flanks, while others patrolled and mopped up the edges of the fire that were secure.
More than 840 firefighters and personnel are assigned to the blaze, along with 27 engines, four dozers and 10 helicopters.
The fire was first reported June 13 in the Bowl Canyon area. It's burning through a steep and rugged area that includes pinon and juniper forests and brush