Windy conditions challenge firefighters as Tunnel Fire spans over 19,000 acres | Williams-Grand Canyon News
Update: 7:30 p.m. April 20.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The tunnel fire 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff grew an additional 3,087 acres on Wednesday for a total of 19,712 acres of fire caused by high winds across the landscape in a north- is.
The Northern Arizona Type 3 crew is currently managing firefighting operations, and crews continued to cool hot spots and worked to keep the fire out of the Timberline Estates and Wupatki Trail. Crews encountered natural gas leaking from the foundations, which added additional risk to suppression activities.
Firefighters had success on the western edge of the blaze where they were able to limit a widespread spread, while a team of fire investigators arrived today to begin investigating the origin and cause of the fire.
High winds again limited the ability of air assets to support firefighting efforts, as strong updrafts and downdrafts around the mountains prevented aircraft from safely and effectively assisting in firefighting with delay drops. Conditions are expected to become windier Thursday and Friday with gusts up to 50 mph across much of northern Arizona.
With the use of aircraft, it is imperative that private drones are not flown in and around the fire area. If a private drone is spotted in the area, all air support will be grounded, potentially hampering firefighting efforts. Remember, if you’re flying, we can’t.
Current on-site firefighting resources include 260 firefighters, three bulldozers, 24 engines, one air attack aircraft, one Type 3 helicopter and additional air assets on order. A Type 1 incident management team from the Pacific Northwest has been ordered and will begin arriving Thursday, with plans to complete a full transition of operations Friday morning.
US Highway 89 is still closed from near mile post 425 (Campbell Road intersection) to 445 and will likely remain closed for the next several days due to firefighting operations.
Information about evacuations, structures that have been burned and when people might return are handled by Coconino County, which posts updates online through its Coconino County Tunnel Fire page.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office estimates that approximately 25 structures have burned in the Tunnel Fire so far, and more information will become available as responders and firefighters can access neighborhoods to get a real count of the number and type of structures burned. The county also established a Coconino County Tunnel Fire Call Center at 928-679-8525 for evacuees with additional questions.
All information regarding ongoing firefighting efforts as well as the direction and activity of the fire is regularly updated on the Tunnel Fire Inciweb page at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8068/.
A recording of the community meeting that took place at Sinagua High School on April 20 is available at the following link: coconino.az.gov/tunnelfire.
Information for Navajo Residents
Earlier on April 20, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer visited the Tunnel Fire Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Flagstaff, Arizona to meet with Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler, and emergency response managers to provide support and receive additional information.
County officials reported the fire had spread to more than 16,000 acres and burned at least 24 homes. Highway 89 between Flagstaff and Tuba City remains closed due to the fire.
The county’s call center is available at (928) 679-8525 for questions from those affected by the fire.
The Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management and Division Directors are also part of today’s discussions to offer support to affected families. The Social Services Division also has services available for affected families:
Department for Self-Reliance – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program helps families with minor children when parents are struggling – (928) 810-8592 or [email protected];
Navajo Family Assistance Services (NFAS) – Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) CARES Home Energy Assistance Program for Low Income Households (LIHEAP) ARPA and General Assistance/Funeral Assistance – NFAS Tuba City Office – ( 928) 283-3278
Navajo Treatment Center for Children and Their Families (NTCCF) – provides outpatient counseling and other mental health services to Navajo children, ages 4-17. Outpatient counseling and aftercare services are available to couples, groups and families by referral only – NFAS Tuba City office – (928) 283-3270.
Further information on these services is available by contacting the Office of the General Manager at (928) 871-6851.
The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise is also available to provide accommodations for families who have been evacuated and are in need of shelter – please contact NNGE Assistant General Manager Michelle Landavazo at (505) 870-6234.
Those who have been evacuated are asked to call the tunnel fire call center so the county can collect contact information to use as the situation evolves. The phone number is (928) 679-8525.
The Red Cross has opened a shelter for evacuated residents located at Sinagua Middle School, 3950 E Butler Ave, Flagstaff, AZ 86004.
Shelters for pets and livestock for people under evacuation orders (in GO status):
• Pets can be brought to the Coconino Humane Association: 3501 E Butler Ave, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
• Horses, goats, sheep, pigs and chickens may be brought to the Fort Tuthill County stables. The stables are self-service. You are responsible for all services related to your animals, including feeding and watering. Bring cages for small animals staying at Fort Tuthill. MENU: https://www.google.com/maps?q=35.1490865,-111.6879575&hl=en-US&gl=us&entry=gps&shorturl=1
Closure of Highway 89
US 89 is closed north of Flagstaff. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) does not have an estimated time to reopen the freeway. Please avoid the area and look for alternate routes.
An alternate route is I-40 east to northbound SR 87; SR 264 is up to US 160; and take US 89. Another alternate route is I-40 west to SR 64, and take it to US 89.
ADOT uses the AZ 511 app to monitor road conditions and closures, as these can change at any time with bushfires. (This app will also help with alternate routes.) Drivers can download the app here: https://bit.ly/3hIqAM4
In response to the tunnel fire, United Way of Northern Arizona established a fund to help those affected. For help, text UWNAZRESPONSE to 41444.
For continuous updates, visit https://www.coconino.az.gov/TunnelFire
Sign up for emergency notifications here: https://www.coconino.az.gov/207/Emergency-Management
The Coconino County Call Center is open and accepting calls. The phone number is (928) 679-8525.