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Suppression costs for Crooks and Tunnel fires reaches nearly $12.5 million

A helicopter flies over the Crooks Fire burning south of Prescott near Mt. Union on Mon, April 18, 2022.
Ansgar Mitchell/Inciweb
A helicopter makes a water drop over the Crooks Fire burning south of Prescott near Mt. Union on Mon, April 18, 2022.

Though it’s still early in the year, this fire season has already been a costly one as nearly a dozen large wildfires have scorched hundreds of thousands of across the U.S. In Arizona, the combined costs of battling the Tunnel and Crooks fires have exceeded $12 million.

As of Tuesday, the Tunnel Fire had racked up more than $3.1 million in costs since Easter Sunday when it started. Meanwhile, $9.3 million has been spent to suppress the much smaller Crooks Fire, which ignited two days later and is still actively burning in the Bradshaw Mountains south of Prescott.

According to officials, the primary reason for the cost disparity is the use of aviation resources. Early on, when the Tunnel Fire was rapidly spreading, heavy winds kept nearly all aircraft grounded for days. Now, fire managers are utilizing only two helicopters to make occasional water drops on hotspots.

Officials on the Crooks Fire, however, are using 13 helicopters along with multiple large air tankers that’ve made more than 150 fire-retardant drops. The blaze is still threatening several small communities that remain under evacuation orders.

In addition, nearly 800 personnel are working the Crooks Fire while about 360 are conducting mostly mop-up operations and patrol on the Tunnel Fire. Officials there are even considering reassigning some firefighters to other incidents in the coming days.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer 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 Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.