Evacuees allowed home after Tunnel Fire burns 19,344 acres east of Flagstaff
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Evacuees of the 19,344 acres Tunnel Fire northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona were allowed back to their homes April 24 and SET status was put in place for all neighborhoods associated with the fire, while residents were reminded that conditions and status level might change based on fire behavior.
According to Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, an estimated 109 properties were impacted by the fire, including 30 residences that were burned and 24 properties with outbuildings destroyed.
U.S. 89 was also re-opened April 24 after being closed because of extreme fire conditions.
On April 22, fire crews continued building fire lines around the fire while battling high winds and welcoming unusual precipitation in the form of scattered rain and sporadic snow showers. Snow and rain April 22 did help douse dry grasses and keep them from igniting more easily, but precipitation levels weren’t high enough to affect large burning logs and extreme hotspots across most of the fire. High winds also resulted in drying out precipitation very quickly after it dropped.
As of April 25, firefighters continue to mop up, patrol and secure existing fire lines while constructing new fire line to the northeast portion of the fire.
Conditions were expected to be drier and warmer April 25 and winds were expected to shift to the southwest and increase in speed April 26-28, with possible gusts to 40 miles on hour April 28. Fire weather conditions are expected to reach record breaking levels for this time of year, according to fire managers.
“We’ll be taking advantage of today’s weather to continue securing fireline ahead of the expected winds later this week,” said Incident Commander Randy Johnson.
Favorable winds allowed for aviation to assist hand crews April 25 as they corralled the northeast edge of the fire in the Strawberry Crater Wilderness Area.
A 4,000 gallon portable water site, known as a “heliwell” was set up along Forest Road 545 near Painted Desert Vista. Fire managers said the newly established heliwell greatly reduces the turnaround time for helicopters to be able to support mop-up, cold trailing and line construction on the northeast portion of the fire near Black Mountain and in the Strawberry Crater.
Crews will continue mopping up along fire line to Forest Road 9134E north of Black Mountain. Engine crews will be patrolling and mopping up in and around the Timberline and Wupatki Trails, Forest Road 420 (Schultz Pass Road) as well as the southern edge of the fire along Forest Road 545 (Sunset Crater/Wupatki Loop Road).
Closures and evacuee information
Coconino National Forest has instituted a forest closure order for the area affected by the Tunnel Fire.
Evacuees returning to their homes are advised to use caution and expect increased traffic as firefighters continue patrolling and mopping up areas of heat.
The landscape is very dynamic immediately after a fire and travel within the fire area can be hazardous, according to Coconino National Forest. Examples of hazards include fire weakened trees that may fall without warning, loss of ground vegetation can loosen rolling debris and rocks and ash pits from stumps may look benign, but will hold hot ash for quite awhile and can cause severe burns if stepped in
As interior islands of vegetation burn and large logs and stumps smolder, smoke will be present.
More information about evacuations is available on the Coconino County Tunnel Fire page.
Those impacted by the Tunnel Fire can receive in-person and online support and services through Coconino County Assistance Center.
In-person services are offered at The Guidance Center from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at 2695 E. Industrial Dr., Flagstaff/or access via 2187 N. Vickey St., Flagstaff, AZ 86004 (look for sandwich board signs).
Online services can be found at coconino.az.gov/help. Please call the Tunnel Fire Call Center with questions at (928) 679-8525 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
More information or updates about the Tunnel Fire is available at coconino.az.gov/