2 arrested in Tunnel Fire evacuation zone; authorities preach patience

Apr 22, 2022, 1:01 PM
(Facebook Photo/Coconino County Sheriff's Office)...
(Facebook Photo/Coconino County Sheriff's Office)
(Facebook Photo/Coconino County Sheriff's Office)

PHOENIX – Authorities urged evacuees to be patient after two people were arrested in separate incidents Thursday night in the area deemed unsafe because of the Tunnel Fire in northern Arizona.

In one case, deputies stopped a utility terrain vehicle driver who was trying to get into a closed-off part of the Timberline community west of U.S. Highway 89.

Deputies determined the man was intoxicated and arrested him for DUI, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release Friday.

Another man ran a roadblock and tried to flee into the closure area, almost hitting public works employees and a deputy who was trying to contact him.

He was apprehended and booked for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, violating the fire ban, endangerment, and felony flight, according to the release.

The sheriff’s office didn’t release the names of the men arrested.

Authorities are asking people who live in the Tunnel Fire evacuation zone along U.S. 89 to be patient because of the unpredictability of the blaze.

The fire started Sunday about 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff and had consumed more than 21,000 acres by Friday morning, with 3% containment. Officials haven’t yet determined how it started.

In an update Thursday, the sheriff’s department estimated that 109 properties had been impacted, including the destruction of 30 residences and 24 properties with outbuildings.

A spot fire broke out overnight in the Wupatki Trails, Lenox Park, Pumpkin Patch and Brandis Trail neighborhoods, which were part of Tuesday’s evacuation orders. That prompted law enforcement personnel to go door-to-door and use sirens and loudspeakers early Friday to warn residents who refused to leave their homes.

Officials expect the evacuation to remain in effect until at least Sunday.

The sheriff’s department is offering to escort evacuated residents into the area when it’s safe from the East Valley Baptist Church at 10655 N. Highway 89 in Flagstaff, on the south end of the closure.

A Red Cross evacuation center was set up in Flagstaff at Sinagua Middle School, 3950 E. Butler Ave. A community meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the school to provide an update on fire conditions, flood risks and evacuation status.

Evacuees can call 928-679-8525 to provide contact information so officials can keep them informed about re-entry and the status of their homes.

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2 arrested in Tunnel Fire evacuation zone; authorities preach patience