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Firefighters make gains on Tunnel Fire; residents question initial response

Tunnel Fire
Inciweb
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The Tunnel Fire northeast of Flagstaff is now 15% contained and stands at just over 21,000 acres. Calmer winds and higher humidity over the weekend assisted firefighters in making progress battling the blaze.

The Tunnel Fire northeast of Flagstaff is now 15% contained and stands at just over 21,000 acres. Calmer winds and higher humidity over the weekend assisted firefighters in making progress battling the blaze.

Fire managers report only minimal growth of the wildfire in recent days. On Sunday, thousands of residents were allowed to return home after the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said there was no imminent danger to neighborhoods northeast of Flagstaff, where 30 homes have been destroyed.

At a community meeting over the weekend, several residents questioned why the Tunnel Fire wasn’t fully suppressed after it was first reported on Easter Sunday, and before it turned into a major wind-driven blaze two days later.

"Why weren’t they on that fire? The wind was blowing very, very hard. They should have been out there at all times trying to get that fire under control," one Timberline resident asked officials at the meeting.

Crews listed the fire as fully contained at two acres the evening after it was called in and didn’t stay at the site overnight. Heavy winds caused explosive growth Tuesday.

According to Flagstaff District Ranger Matt McGrath, firefighters were attempting to fully suppress the fire from the beginning. An outside agency arrived last week to investigate its cause and response and officials say the results will eventually be released.

Increased winds and very low humidity are predicted to return this week.