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Ducey declares state of emergency in Coconino County as Tunnel Fire continues to burn

The smoke plume from the Tunnel Fire as seen on Tue, April 19, 2022.
Coconino National Forest/Inciweb
The smoke plume from the Tunnel Fire as seen on Tue, April 19, 2022.

Gov. Doug Ducey has declared a state of emergency in Coconino County as the Tunnel Fire continues to burn northeast of Flagstaff. It’s now scorched 20,511 acres with no reported containment.

The emergency declaration will allocate $200,000 from Arizona’s general fund to assist with firefighting and recovery efforts. The Coconino County Board of Supervisors requested the assistance earlier this week.

"We pray for the safety of the responders and firefighters in Northern Arizona, and are thankful for their dedication to protecting the lives, pets and property of Arizonans," said Ducey in a press release Thursday. "Our prayers are with the residents affected by the fire and we encourage everyone in the area to follow the guidance of fire officials, stay safe and respond to any evacuation notices. We will continue to monitor the situation and deploy additional resources as necessary.”

The wildfire continues its advance as very dry conditions coupled with heavy wind gusts have triggered explosive growth. It’s burned an estimated 25 structures in the Timberline community and elsewhere along with sections of the Coconino National Forest and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. More than 2,000 people remain under evacuation orders.

Crews have worked to contain numerous spot fires on the blaze’s western edge and kept it from burning up the steep slopes of Schultz Mountain. Helicopters made numerous water drops Thursday after aircraft were grounded for days because of strong winds. A Red Flag warning is in effect, but light snow and higher humidity are in the forecast Friday, which could assist firefighters with containment.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.