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KNAU and Arizona News

Tunnel Fire evening update, Thursday, April 21, 2022: fire crews make progress, evacuations remain in place, initial property damage assessed

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In a statement Thursday night, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said deputies have conducted preliminary evaluations of the burn area. Approximately 109 properties were impacted by the fire, including 30 residences that were burned and 24 properties with outbuildings destroyed. The owners of the residential structures have been notified of the loss.

Current evacuation orders remain in place until further notice. County officials have deemed it unsafe to allow residents back into the evacuated area at this time. There is still active fire and firefighting in the Timberline neighborhood, as well as open and potentially dangerous utilities. Erratic winds are in the forecast Friday and Saturday, which also played a part in the decision to keep evacuation orders in place, according to Coconino County officials.

Officials with the Coconino National Forest say firefighting crews made progress Thursday establishing lines on the more than 20,000 acre Tunnel Fire burning northeast of Flagstaff.

In a press release, forest managers say helicopters were able to assist fire suppression efforts after being grounded earlier in the week because of high winds. Crews also made progress putting out hotspots on the fire’s western edge near Shultz Pass Road (Forest Service Road 420), Timberline Estates and Wupatki Trail subdivisions.

Ground crews established more handline on the southern edge of the fire east of the Pinnacle Peak 345KV powerline and on the north edge below and east of O’Leary Peak. Forest officials say they will continue trying to extend these lines to the east.

In Thursday night’s press release, Deputy Incident Commander Shelby Erickson said there is no declaration of containment yet, but, “there has been a lot of work, progress, and investment on line construction around many parts of the Tunnel Fire.” Erickson added that containment won’t be declared until “we’re confident the line will hold during the forecasted high and shifting winds through the next few days.” The National Weather Service is calling for strong winds and a slight chance of rain and snow showers Friday, as well as higher humidity. A Wind Advisory is set to take effect Friday at 5 a.m., expiring at 8 p.m.

The Coconino National Forest has implemented a Forest Closure Order for the area affected by the Tunnel Fire.

An interactive map and other Tunnel Fire and evacuation information can be found at: www.coconino.az.gov/2894/Tunnel-Fire.