Western Wildfires

Fire burns through thousands of acres in Arizona amid fire-prone Southwest

Two Arizona wildfires consumed a total of nearly 7,000 acres as of Tuesday afternoon as favorable fire conditions were forecast across much of the Southwest.

The Tunnel Fire is burning about 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff. U.S. Forest Service officials said the blaze had been measured at more than 6,000 acres as of Tuesday afternoon. No containment was achieved in the early evening.

Many communities near the fires are experiencing mandatory evacuations, with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office asking residents of the Timberline and Moon Crater areas to leave immediately.

Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll said the fire was moving so quickly that it was difficult to get deputies into nearby areas to help evacuate residents.

“The fire was moving so fast that many of those officers put themselves at risk,” he said Tuesday night.

Smoke rises from the Tunnel fire in the Timberline neighborhood of Arizona.
Smoke rises from the Tunnel fire in the Timberline neighborhood of Arizona.@CoconinoNF via Twitter

Driscoll said his department has received calls about a man trapped in his burning home but unable to reach him, and about children who may be left at home in the area. evacuation area. Subsequent inspections of most reports of children at home, he said, revealed empty homes.

Driscoll said the fate of anyone missing will have to wait until authorities are safely inside the burn zone.

At least two dozen structures have been lost, he said, and hundreds of homes are threatened.

County spokesman Trey Williams said evacuations were estimated at 766 households, with more than 2,000 people in the area.

Williams said residents were well-versed in the state of the state “Ready, Set Up, Get Started!” The program notifies residents to pack up and prepare to flee in the event of an emergency. Some communities not subject to mandatory evacuation was in “set-up” status Tuesday night.

The Red Cross and the Cocoonino Humane Society have respectively established centers for evacuees of people and pets.

More than 200 firefighters worked on the blaze, officials said, creating a blaze that stretched for kilometers. The National Weather Service said the beam created clouds of fire, also known as cumulus clouds.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, a 10-mile section of US Highway 89 was closed, with northbound lanes closed at mile 423 and southbound lanes cut off at column 445. , according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The Tunnel Fire started around 4:22 p.m. Monday and erupted from 11 acres on Tuesday morning, the U.S. Forest Service said. Flames thrive between a red flag warning from the National Weather Service for the lower elevations of northern Arizona. Such warnings mean an increased risk of fire and explosion due to a combination of warm temperatures, low humidity and stronger winds.

“The fire was in an area of ​​hay and brush, with scattered Ponderosa pines,” the Forest Service said in an update Tuesday afternoon. “Wind conditions can cause this fire to rapidly spread northeastward and cause spotting in the front of the fire.”

The Forest Service said it had canceled a planned 2,400-acre regulated burn in the area scheduled for Monday because of conditions.

Planned air raids were canceled Tuesday because the winds were too dangerous for aircraft to maneuver safely, Flagstaff County Ranger Matthew McGrath said.

Tuesday’s forecast includes gusts of up to 50 mph and good temperatures in the 80s for some northern parts of the state.

The separate Crooks Fire started around 10 a.m. Monday near Prescott, the US Forest Service said. By Tuesday afternoon, it was estimated to have covered 750 acres, with no reports of containment.

Seven communities were subject to mandatory evacuations Tuesday night, and an additional area was notified to prepare for possible evacuations during the “set-up” phase of the state’s emergency preparedness program. state, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, posted map of evacuation zones.

Many roads near the fire were closed.

Forest Service officials said 181 employees have been assigned to Crooks Fire. Service is closed many entertainment sites in national parks as a precautionary measure.

“The biggest challenge for today is warning with red flags,” Commander Cory Carlson of the federally managed incident center said in a video update Tuesday.

By early evening, Forest Service officials said winds had taken a toll and helped fuel the fire, but there were no updates on the area.

It is unclear if structures were threatened during the Crooks Fire.

The fires joined a list of active fires in the West, including a small wildfire in Boulder County, Colorado, on Tuesday night that the local sheriff described as “slow-moving.” “.

The 90 acres of Duck Pond Fire in Colorado was reduced to “smoldering and hot spots” on Monday afternoon, according to a statement from Eagle County.

In the fire New MexicoThe Hermits Peak Fire is 80% contained, essentially halting its progress after it expanded to more than 7,500, the US Forest Service said earlier Tuesday.

However, concerns about similar conditions ‘affecting parts of Arizona have been raised in New Mexico as authorities hope winds will not restart the blaze’s progress.

Federal officials said the fire started April 6 when sudden gusts of wind swept through a prescribed burn in the Santa Fe National Forest beyond its boundaries, federal officials said. .

A fire that has been burning since Saturday in southwestern Alaska consumed 4,048 acres on Tuesday afternoon and has “develope,” according to the state Forest Service. There have been no reports of structural loss or damage, and no injuries have been reported.

The location of the Alaska fire was so remote that it was detected by plane, and forest officials continued to monitor it by air.

Federal forecasters said during a forecast discussion Tuesday that much of the Southwest and some of the Southern Plains, including parts of Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado and possibly parts of the Wyoming and Nebraska, which could experience strong winds and “warmth like summer” midweek, increase the risk of severe fire.

Red flags in parts of Arizona were combined on Tuesday with warnings for residents not to start cooking or heating fires.

The cause of both fires in Arizona is still under investigation.

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