Tunnel Fire surges to nearly 20,000 acres, threatens hundreds of homes
The Tunnel Fire burning northeast of Flagstaff has grown to nearly 20,000 acres with no containment yet reported. Strong winds overnight Tuesday fueled explosive growth of the wildfire.
Coconino County Sheriff’s officials say at least two dozen homes have burned in the Timberline community and elsewhere, but that it’s still too dangerous to send in personnel to determine the exact number. They also say it’s unclear whether all of the area’s residents made it out after being ordered to leave. More than 2,000 people have been evacuated and hundreds of homes remain threatened.
Forest managers say the fire’s massive surge was driven by extreme winds. True Brown is the fire management officer on the Flagstaff Ranger District and spoke at a briefing Tuesday night.
"I cannot stress enough how rapidly this fire is moving in a northeasterly direction. And folks, if they are under an evacuation order, I cannot stress how important it is to leave the fire area," said Brown.
Brown says fire crews on Tuesday saw flame lengths of more than a hundred feet. Firefighters are focusing on protecting homes in the area as well as trying to keep the wildfire from spreading up the steep slopes of O’Leary Peak.
A type 1 federal incident management team is expected to arrive Thursday as heavy winds are forecast to return, and a fire weather watch goes into effect for much of the region.
A community meeting will be held at Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. For the most up-to-date information, follow Coconino County on Facebook and Twitter or see the county’s website.