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Tunnel Fire morning update, Thursday, April 21, 2022: fire grows to 20K, crews battle Red Flag winds

Tunnel Fire 4/19/22
Brady Smith/USFS
The Tunnel Fire exploded in growth on Tue, April 19, 2022 as heavy winds funneled it to the northeast. It's burned at least two dozen homes and forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people.

Crews in Flagstaff continue to fight the fast-moving Tunnel Fire northeast of the city. Fire officials say the blaze grew by more than 3,000 acres Wednesday, bringing total acreage burned so far to nearly 20,000. Fire managers will give an update later this morning about how the fire behaved overnight.

On Wednesday, crews worked through Red Flag winds and had some success on the western edge of the fire where they were able to limit extensive spreading.

Crews continued cooling hotspots and worked to keep fire outside of Timberline Estates and Wupatki Trail subdivisions. They encountered natural gas leaking from some foundations, which added extra risk to suppression activities.

A fire investigation team arrived Wednesday to begin looking for the ignition origin and cause of the fire.

High winds yesterday again limited the ability of air resources to support firefighting efforts. Conditions are expected to become windier Thursday and Friday with gusts up to 50 mph in the forecast.

Fire managers remind the public that private drones are not allowed to fly in and around the fire area. If one is spotted, it means all aircraft support must be grounded for safety.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office estimates approximately 25 structures have burned in the Tunnel Fire so far. More information will become available as responders and firefighters are able to access neighborhoods for a true count as to how many and what type of structures have burned.

Coconino County has established a Tunnel Fire Call Center for evacuees at 928-679-8525. U.S.

Highway 89 remains closed from milepost 425 to 435 and will likely be closed for the next several days.

Current evacuations remain in place as does a local State of Emergency.

Hundreds of firefighters and firefighting resources are on.