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Some evacuation orders to be lifted Sunday as Tunnel Fire continues to burn near Flagstaff

Families are looking forward to returning home as soon as possible.
Published: Apr. 23, 2022 at 11:51 AM MST|Updated: Apr. 23, 2022 at 9:23 PM MST
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FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – People evacuated because of the Tunnel Fire burning in Flagstaff are anxiously awaiting the go-ahead to return home. Late Saturday night, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said the evacuation order for residents living in the neighborhoods along Highway 89 will be lifted at 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Deputies will begin re-entry for these residents after the order is lifted. Evacuated residents are being asked to report to the north parking lot of the Silver Saddle Trading Post and to bring identification or other documents verifying their address. The Tunnel Fire Incident Management Team determined that the current status and condition of the fire are no longer an immediate threat to those neighborhoods, allowing people to return. But officials are cautioning residents that the wildfire could still pose a threat and that another evacuation could be ordered if fire conditions change.

The Tunnel Fire has been burning about 14 miles north of Flagstaff for almost a week now. It exploded into the biggest fire in the state when it nearly tripled in size between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Most recent estimates put it at about 21,000 acres, which is nearly 33 square miles. That would almost cover almost the entire city of Apache Junction. According to fire officials, containment is 3%.

Most recent estimates put the Tunnel Fire at about 21,000 acres, which is nearly 33 square miles.
Most recent estimates put the Tunnel Fire at about 21,000 acres, which is nearly 33 square miles.(Arizona's Family)

Weather, especially the strong wind, has been a major issue for crews on the firelines. According to Coconino County Emergency Management, the wind is expected to shift today and tomorrow. Fire teams are in position to deal with that. The wind should be a bit lighter through the weekend but is expected to pick up again starting Tuesday. There’s also a warmup in the forecast according to the National Weather Service office in Flagstaff.

Coconino County posted photos from Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument to Facebook Saturday, showing “significant damage” to the maintenance area because of the fire. The Tunnel Fire has burned 30 homes and destroyed outbuildings on dozens of properties.

Most recent estimates put the Tunnel Fire at about 21,000 acres, which is nearly 33 square miles.
Most recent estimates put the Tunnel Fire at about 21,000 acres, which is nearly 33 square miles.(Arizona's Family)

Photos of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument showing the impacts of the #TunnelFire

Posted by Coconino County on Saturday, April 23, 2022
  • 30 homes burned
  • 24 properties with outbuildings destroyed
  • 350+ firefighters
  • 9 hand crews (20 people each)
  • 5 bulldozers
  • 18 engines
  • 1 air attack plane
  • 3 helicopters
  • First reported: Sunday, April 17
  • Cause: Under investigation
  • For the latest evacuation orders, click/tap here.
  • Tunnel Fire Call Center: 928-679-8525

Roughly 800 homes have been evacuated and people living in several other areas have been told that they need to be ready to move.

  • Go in place
    • Moon Crater
  • Set in place
    • North of Campbell, west of 89
    • North of Campbell, east of 89
    • South of Campbell, west of 89
    • South of Campbell, east of 89
    • Antelope Hills
    • East of Moon Crater

State of emergency

Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency Thursday, which allows state officials to allocate more resources and request federal assistance.

“Our team is on the ground working with first responders to monitor the Tunnel Fire in Coconino County,” said Ducey. “As strong winds fuel fires across Arizona, we are doing everything we can to keep Arizonans safe. We pray for the safety of the responders and firefighters in Northern Arizona and are thankful for their dedication to protecting the lives, pets, and property of Arizonans. Our prayers are with the residents affected by the fire and we encourage everyone in the area to follow the guidance of fire officials, stay safe and respond to any evacuation notices. We will continue to monitor the situation and deploy additional resources as necessary.”

Mandatory evacuations

While crews are starting to see signs of hope in getting the wildfire under control, those in the fire’s path are still under mandatory evacuation orders. Those forced out of their homes can stay at Sinagua Middle School. Animals are still being taken in at a pop-up shelter for animals that High Country Humane had set up at Fort Tuthill County Fairground And Park. Residents who need additional assistance or have questions should call the county at 928-679-8525.