New Mexico fire rages; dozens of homes threatened

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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)

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)

This photo provided by the Sedona Fire District shows firefighters working near a wildfire that broke out Monday, June 16, 2014, in northern Arizona’s scenic Oak Creek Canyon just north of a blaze that charred 31 square miles last month. The so-called Junipine Fire was believed to have been sparked by a downed power line, authorities said. (AP Photo/Sedona Fire District)

Operations Section Chief Darrell Willis with Southwest Area Incident Management Team 3 discusses the Asaayi Lake Fire during a briefing on Monday, June 16, 2014, in Window Rock, Ariz. Residents of two Native American communities near the New Mexico-Arizona border were forced to leave their homes Monday, June 16, 2014, as strong winds fanned the flames of a wildfire burning in the Chuska Mountains. The blaze ballooned to more than 17 square miles, forcing Navajo Nation police to issue an evacuation order for parts of Naschitti and nearby Sheep Springs. (AP Photo/Navajo Times, Ravonelle Yazzie)

In this Sunday, June 15, 2014, photo the Navajo Hotshots make their way to the fire in the Chuska Mountains near Asaayi Lake, which is east of Navajo Pine, N.M. Residents of two Native American communities near the New Mexico-Arizona border were forced to leave their homes Monday, June 16, 2014, as strong winds fanned the flames of a wildfire burning in the Chuska Mountains. The blaze ballooned to more than 17 square miles, forcing Navajo Nation police to issue an evacuation order for parts of Naschitti and nearby Sheep Springs. (AP Photo/Navajo Times, Ravonelle Yazzie)

The Shirley Fire kicks up lots of smoke with the sun in the center, as seen in Wofford Heights, Calif., Sunday, June 15, 2014. By later Sunday, the fire had burned through 3.1 square miles of trees and brush in and around the Sequoia National Forest, coming within a mile of Wolford Heights, about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield. Firefighters stopped the flames from reaching homes in Wofford Heights. Authorities have called on residents of the threatened homes to evacuate. (AP photo/The Bakersfield Californian, Casey Christie) MANDATORY CREDIT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES; TV OUT

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A fire that has forced residents of two Native American communities on the Arizona-New Mexico border from their homes and is threatening the heart of the Navajo Nation’s sheep industry is growing larger.

Fire officials say the Assayii (ah-SAH’-he) Lake Fire has ballooned to more than 19 square miles. The flames already have destroyed four structures. About 50 homes near the rural communities of Naschitti (NAS’-chit-ee) and Sheep Springs are threatened.

Crews were bracing Tuesday for wind gusts up to 50 mph, along with more high temperatures and low humidity levels.

In California, diminishing winds have helped firefighters surround 75 percent of a blaze burning in the southern Sierra Nevada. Residents were told late Monday they could return to some 1,000 mountain homes.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Diminishing winds have helped California firefighters surround 75 percent of a wildfire in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Fire spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman said Tuesday there was no overnight growth of the blaze near Lake Isabella, northeast of Bakersfield.

Late Monday residents were told they could return to some 1,000 mountain homes.

Three houses have been destroyed by fire, which has charred more than 4 square miles of trees and brush in and adjacent to Sequoia National Forest.

Chipman says calmer winds have allowed firefighters to make significant progress.

Associated Press

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