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Firefighters battling Salt Creek Fire near Shiprock reach 50% containment


FARMINGTON — Firefighters from several agencies are making progress against a brush fire that has burned 511 acres in the Mesa Farm Road area in Shiprock.

The Salt Creek Fire remained active and was at 50% containment as of Sunday afternoon, according to a press release from BIA Wildland Fire Management. Progress was made and backfires started to burn fuels. A helicopter knocked down a 5-acre spot fire that had started near the blaze.

"A lot of the smoke is being produced by trees and brush that are burning in the interior. Resources will remain on scene and fire crews will be present on Monday to continue containment," fire managers said in an evening update. "Additional support is being provided by Navajo Nation Police Department, Navajo Nation Fire Department and San Juan County Fire Department."

On Sunday morning fire managers were worried about increasing winds and were battling a fire with no containment lines.

"Fire crews and engines are on-scene and have observed high to extreme fire behavior with spotting, torching, short runs, and 20 to 40-foot flame lengths," the morning release stated. "Incident objectives are to keep the fire within established boundaries which is east of the river and west of Mesa Farm. Aerial resources also arrived on-scene to assist with suppression tactics."

Members of the public were asked to avoid the area and not to operate drones.

"With aerial support on-scene of the Salt Creek Fire, we ask that the public refrain from using drones," the agency said via Facebook Sunday. "When a drone has been spotted in the fire area, we have to ground our aerial resources for their safety. This takes away a vital resource on wildfire incidents and impacts suppression tactics."

The agency reported that residents were told overnight to evacuate and at least one structure and multiple outbuildings were threatened.

San Juan County spokesman Devin Neely said no injuries or deaths have been reported as of the morning of May 2.

He added that the Shiprock Fire Department asked the county for assistance at about 1:35 a.m. on May 2.

The Navajo Police Department stated on its Facebook page that personnel from its Shiprock District remain on scene in addition to San Juan County Fire & Rescue, Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Region Wildland Fire & Aviation Management, Navajo Nation Fire & Rescue Services, Farmington Fire Department and other agencies.

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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