Tunnel Fire evening update, Friday, April 22, 2022: crews make progress, morning precipitation welcome but not substantial, weekend wind expected
Fire crews worked through strong, gusty winds Friday as they battled the now 21,000 acre Tunnel Fire northeast of Flagstaff.
Officials with the Coconino National Forest say snow and rain showers Friday morning helped douse dry grasses and kept them from igniting more easily, but precipitation levels weren’t high enough to impact extreme hotspots and burning logs across most of the fire.
Two areas of the Tunnel Fire were very active Friday. A spot fire that began Thursday night on 89 Mesa in the Schultz Fire burn scar grew from 100 to 500 acres. Down trees from the Schultz Fire added fuel to the spot fire. Firefighters were able to create a line around the entire spot fire, but strong winds created dry conditions giving it fuel.
The second active area Friday was in the northeast portion of the Tunnel Fire in the Strawberry Crater Wilderness area. It burned into flatter terrain and sparser fuel which forest managers say is expected to slow the fire’s growth.
Bulldozers and hand crews continued building line around the edge of the fire between O’Leary Peak and Black Mountain. Patrols and hot spot mop up efforts continued in the Timberline Estates and Wupatki Trails subdivisions and along the southern flank of the Tunnel Fire along Forest Road 545.
Fire managers say strong shifting winds out of the north and east are forecast for Saturday and Sunday and continue to be a primary concern. They are calling the Tunnel Fire 3% contained as of Friday night but are hesitant to call certain areas contained until the current wind events pass.
Current evacuations remain in place as does a local State of Emergency.
An evacuee shelter is operating at Sinagua Middle School, 3850 E. Butler Ave. in Flagstaff.
Tunnel Fire evacuees can take their pets to Coconino Humane Association: 3501 E Butler Ave, Flagstaff, AZ 86004, and large animals to the Fort Tuthill County Stables. Historic Hitchin' Post Stables, 4848 Lake Mary Rd, Flagstaff, and Beth's Burro Barn
are also accepting equines and farm animals. http://BethsBurroBarn.com.
Information about evacuations, structures that have been burned, and when people might be able to return is handled by Coconino County, which is posting updates online via their Coconino County Tunnel Fire page. The County has also established a Coconino County Tunnel Fire Call Center at 928-679-8525 for information and questions.
Highway 89 remains closed from milepost 425 to 435 and will likely be closed for the next several days.
A Forest Closure Order remains in effect for the Tunnel Fire area, implemented by the Coconino National Forest.
An interactive map and other fire and evacuation information can be found at: www.coconino.az.gov/2894/Tunnel-Fire.
Information regarding current firefighting efforts and the direction and activity of the fire is regularly updated on the Tunnel Fire Inciweb page at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8068/.