Tunnel Fire surges to more than 16,000 acres overnight due to strong winds

Published by The Bee News

April 20, 2022

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The Tunnel Fire(link is external) 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff grew to 16,625 acres overnight and is still zero percent contained, as strong winds propelled the flames northeast over U.S. Highway 89 toward Bonito Park and the Sunset Crater National Monument area.
 
The Northern Arizona Type 3 Team is currently managing firefighting operations. Crews worked overnight building line on the western side of the fire, as well as worked to secure the fire’s edge for structure protection in the Timberline and Wupatki Trails subdivisions. Hand crews and bulldozers will continue working today to secure the fire’s western flank and in the subdivisions, as well as try to keep the fire from spreading up the steep slopes of O’Leary Peak.

Current firefighting resources on scene include some 260 firefighters, three dozers, 24 engines, one air attack plane, and one Type 3 helicopter. The team has also ordered two Type 1 helicopters.
 
Two air tankers were ordered yesterday but grounded due to very strong winds that surpassed safety and effectiveness thresholds for dropping retardant. Operators hope to utilize the Type 3 helicopter today in firefighting efforts and structure protection, and those of the Type 1 helicopters if conditions allow. Breezy conditions are expected today, becoming windier Thursday and Friday with gusts up to 50 mph in most of northern Arizona. Windy conditions above a certain level make dropping retardant ineffective and unsafe.
 
With the use of aircraft, it is imperative that private drones do not fly in and around the fire area. If a private drone is spotted in the area, all aircraft support will be grounded, which can be detrimental to firefighting efforts. Remember, if you fly, we can’t.
 
A Pacific Northwest Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered and will begin arriving Thursday, with plans to fully transition operations Friday morning. A fire investigation team arrives today and will investigate the origin and cause of the Tunnel Fire.
 
A community meeting for those in the Doney Park area affected by the fire is scheduled this evening at 5:30 p.m. at Sinagua Middle School, 3950 E. Butler Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ 86004(link is external). The meeting will be live streamed online, with a link posted later today on the Tunnel Fire Inciweb page(link is external).
 
U.S. Highway 89 is still closed from milepost 425 (Silver Saddle Road intersection) to 435 and will likely remain closed for the next several days due to firefighting operations.
 
Information about evacuations, structures that have been burned, and when people might be able to return is handled by Coconino County, which is posting updates online via their Coconino County Tunnel Fire page(link is external).

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is estimating approximately 25 structures have burned in the Tunnel Fire so far, and more information will become available as responders and firefighters are able to access neighborhoods get a true count as to how many and what type of structures have burned. The County has also established an Emergency Call Center at 928-679-8525 for evacuees with additional questions.
 
All information regarding current firefighting efforts and the direction and activity of the fire is regularly updated on the Tunnel Fire Inciweb page at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8068/(link is external).

TUNNEL FIRE OVERVIEW
Date reported: April 18, 2022
Cause: Under investigation.
Origin: 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Doney Park. (GPS: 35.304167, -111.588611(link is external))
Current size: 16,625 acres
Percent contained: 0%
Current resources: Approximately 260 firefighters, three dozers, 24 engines, one air attack plane, and one Type 3 helicopter. A Type 1 Team has been ordered, as well as two Type 1 helicopters.
Current closures: U.S. Highway 89 is closed from milepost 425 to 435 and will likely be closed for the next several days.
Evacuation information: Please visit the Coconino County Emergency Management page at www.coconino.az.gov/2894/Tunnel-Fire(link is external). The County Emergency Call Center can be reached at 928-679-8525.

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