Windy conditions challenge firefighters as Tunnel Fire grows to more than 19,000 acres

Release Date: Apr 20, 2022

Contact(s): Media Contact: 928-224-8306, Evacuee Call Center: 928-679-8525


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., April 20, 2022 — The Tunnel Fire 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff grew an additional 3,087 acres Wednesday for a total of 19,712 acres of fire driven by strong winds across the landscape in a northeast direction.  

The Northern Arizona Type 3 Team is currently managing firefighting operations, and crews continued cooling hotspots and worked to keep fire outside of Timberline Estates and Wupatki Trail subdivisions. Crews encountered natural gas leaking from foundations, which added additional risk to suppression activities.

Firefighters had success on the western edge of the fire where they were able to limit extensive spreading, while a fire investigation team arrived today to begin investigating the fire origin and cause.

Forceful winds again limited the ability of air resources to support firefighting efforts, as strong up and downdrafts around the mountains kept aircraft from safely and effectively aiding in the firefight with retardant drops. Conditions are expected to become windier Thursday and Friday with gusts up to 50 mph in most of northern Arizona.

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.

Current firefighting resources on scene include 260 firefighters, three dozers, 24 engines, one air attack plane, one Type 3 helicopter, and additional air assets on order. A Pacific Northwest Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered and will begin arriving Thursday, with plans to fully transition operations Friday morning.

U.S. Highway 89 is still closed from near milepost 425 (Campbell Road intersection) to 445 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.

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 Coconino County Tunnel Fire 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/

 

TUNNEL FIRE AT A GLANCE

  • Date reported: April 17, 2022
  • Cause: Under investigation.
  • Origin: 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Doney Park. (GPS: 35.304167, -111.588611)
  • Current size: 19,712 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 additional air assets.
  • Predicted smoke impacts: Smoke will impact the Doney Park area in the evening as temperatures drop and smoke drains. During afternoon hours, smoke will move toward the northeast.
  • Current closures: U.S. Highway 89 is closed from milepost 425 to 445. This highway will likely be closed for the next several days.
  • Evacuation & information: Please visit the Coconino County Emergency Management page for the Tunnel Fire at https://www.coconino.az.gov/2894/Tunnel-Fire . The County Emergency Call Center can be reached at 928-679-8525.


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