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This image provided by Inci Web shows a plume of smoke in the Chuska Mountains near Naschitti, N.M. on Sunday, June 15, 2014. Residents of a Navajo community near the New Mexico-Arizona border prepared for evacuations Monday as strong winds fanned the flames of a wildfire burning in the Chuska Mountains. Fire officials were conducting reconnaissance missions to get a better handle on the fire's size, but Navajo Nation officials said more than 3 square miles have been charred since the fire was first reported Friday. (AP Photo/Inciweb)
Wildfire rages as Navajo communities evacuate

The Associated Press

First Published Jun 16 2014 05:58 pm • Last Updated Jun 16 2014 11:01 pm

Naschitti, N.M. • A wildfire that has forced the evacuations of Navajo communities in northwestern New Mexico has grown to more than 17 square miles.

Fire officials say the Assayii Lake Fire is being fueled by fierce winds. There’s zero containment, and the gusts have hampered any effort to attack the flames directly.

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Fire spokeswoman Arlene Perea says parts of Naschitti and the nearby community of Sheep Springs have been evacuated and residents in other areas have been put on notice that they might have to leave.

Authorities estimate there are about 400 people who live in the two rural communities.

Perea says officials are most concerned about keeping firefighters and the public out of harm’s way given the erratic nature of the fire and the unfavorable weather conditions.

The human-caused blaze was first reported Friday.

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