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Firefighters make progress on Tunnel Fire, report first containment numbers

Tunnel Fire 4-21-22
Tom Story/Northern Arizona Type 3 Incident Management Team
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A pair of resource advisors from the Coconino National Forest record data as they work to determine the severity of Tunnel Fire's impact on the forest Thu, April 21, 2022. The east side of the San Francisco Peaks show the effects of the 2010 Schultz Fire.

Firefighters battling the Tunnel Fire northeast of Flagstaff say they’ve now contained 3% of the 21,087-acre blaze. A storm front today is bringing light precipitation to the area along with continued strong winds.

Fire officials say they’ve made progress using helicopters to douse hotspots near homes and have dug containment lines in many key areas along the fire’s northern edge. Higher humidity and much-needed moisture could help with firefighting, but officials are concerned erratic winds could complicate containment efforts in the coming days.

Early Friday morning, a spot fire started in the Timberline evacuation area, and law enforcement officers went door-to-door to warn residents still in their homes of the danger. Sheriff’s deputies also made two arrests Thursday in the evacuation zone. More than 2,000 people remain under evacuation orders and hundreds of homes are still threatened. Coconino County Sheriff’s officials have confirmed 30 residences have been destroyed.

According to the National Park Service, the wildfire has burned across all of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, but all staff and culturally important items are reported safe.

A type 1 federal incident management team assumed command today, which makes additional firefighting resources available.

A Tunnel Fire community meeting will be held at 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon at Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff. Fire personnel, sheriff’s officials and other will give updates about fire conditions, potential flood risks and evacuation status. The meeting will also be streamed at the Coconino County Facebook page.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom 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 frequent contributor to NPR.