ARIZONA NEWS

Tunnel Fire burning near Flagstaff more than doubles in size overnight

Apr 20, 2022, 7:09 AM | Updated: 5:08 pm

PHOENIX – High winds fanned flames 100 feet into the sky and grounded air tankers as the Tunnel Fire burning near Flagstaff grew to 16,625 acres by Wednesday morning and 19,700 by the evening.

The blaze expanded about 11,000 acres overnight, fire managers said.

“It just kept moving,” Tunnel Fire team spokesman Dick Fleishman told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “There’s a lot of fuel ahead of it, too.”

Coconino County officials declared an emergency Tuesday and ordered 766 homes be evacuated. Another 250 structures were under threat.

The fire is chewing up dry grass, pine and brush about 15 miles northeast of Flagstaff, but moving away from the city.

About 260 personnel have been assigned to the fire that jumped across U.S. 89. The freeway was closed in both directions between mileposts 423 and 445, the Arizona Department of Transportation said.

Areas north of Lenox Road and south of Forest Service 545, including Wupatki Trails, were put into “GO” status at about noon, according to Coconino County Emergency Management.

Areas east of Moon Crater were put in “SET” mode, meaning prepare for possible evacuation.

“The wind … we can’t get in front of it, it’s not safe. We’re in chase mode,” Fleishman said. “The fire was winning yesterday – we’re going to try to win today.”

The wind is expected to stick around the area for rest of the week, the National Weather Service in Flagstaff said, but fire officials said they would be able to use air resources.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team will arrive Thursday and take over supervision of fire response Friday.

Authorities won’t be able to determine whether anyone was injured in the wildfire until the flames subside. Firefighters and law enforcement officers went door to door telling people to evacuate but had to pull out to avoid getting boxed in, Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll said.

He said his office got a call about a man who was trapped inside his house, but firefighters couldn’t get to him.

“We don’t know if he made it out or not,” Driscoll said.

Cause of the fire is being investigated.

Arizona Public Service Co., the state’s largest utility, shut off power to about 625 customers to keep firefighters safe, a spokeswoman said.

The Red Cross set up shelter at Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff, where a community update is scheduled Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

The meeting will be livestreamed as well.

County Emergency Management also set up a call center at 928-679-8525.

About 1,000 animals were affected by the evacuation order. The Coconino Humane Society is putting up large and small animals forced from their homes.

The fire started Sunday around 4:20 p.m.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tunnel Fire burning near Flagstaff more than doubles in size overnight