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.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Pexels Photo)...

Here’s what KTAR News learned from overdoses, drugs in Arizona prisons

Here's what KTAR News learned this week about overdoses, drugs in prisons and the future of Arizona corrections.
7 hours ago
(ADOT Flickr Photo)...

I-10, I-17 closures lead weekend Valley freeway restrictions

Closures on a portion of Interstate 10 and Interstate 17 are among the Valley freeway restrictions drivers will need to plan for this weekend.
7 hours ago
(Pexels Photo, Facebook Photo/Uncorked Wine Festivals)...

Weekend guide: Here are the biggest events around metro Phoenix for March 31- April 2

From early Easter celebrations to more wine festivals, there will be a lot to do around the Valley this weekend.
7 hours ago
(AP File Photo/Joshua Poulson)...

Phoenix Union committee to recommend return of school resource officers

A Valley school district student safety committee plans to recommend the return of police to campuses but with stipulations.
7 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Bike Easy)...

Chandler wants residents to have their say on protected bike lanes

An East Valley city is asking for feedback through on online survey regarding the potential installation of protected bicycle lanes.
1 day ago
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoes bill to ban tents in public places

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed a bill Thursday that would have prohibited people from setting up tents or tarps in public areas.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Tunnel Fire burning near Flagstaff more than doubles in size overnight