Tunnel fire: Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declares state of emergency


Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency in Coconino County on Thursday due to the 20,000-acre tunnel wildfire.

The blaze started just north of Flagstaff on Sunday and is 0% contained, according to the InciWeb website, a national wildfire information clearinghouse. At least two dozen buildings were destroyed, officials said, and residents of hundreds of homes near Flagstaff were ordered to evacuate.

The emergency declaration means officials can provide the necessary resources to affected communities to “respond and recover from the destruction of the fire,” Ducey said in a press release.

“As high winds fuel fires across Arizona, we are doing everything we can to keep Arizonans safe,” the governor said. He went on to urge residents to “follow the advice of firefighters, stay safe and respond to any evacuation notices.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and deploy additional resources as needed,” Ducey said.

An estimated 2,068 people live in the evacuation zone, Patrice Horstman, chairman of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, said Wednesday. “From there, 766 households were evacuated,” along with more than 1,000 animals, Horstman said.

Fire crews are prioritizing residences, buildings and watersheds, according to a daily update on InciWeb.

“Current on-site firefighting resources include 179 firefighters, four 20-man manual crews, four bulldozers, 21 engines, one air attack aircraft, one Type 3 helicopter, two Type 1 helicopters and air assets additional ones on order,” InciWeb reported.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to InciWeb.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality told residents to keep an eye out for the weather on Thursday.

“As the next weather system approaches, southwest winds gusting to 25 to 35 mph are forecast this afternoon,” agency officials noted on their website. “These winds can increase fire behavior and smoke production. Given the winds, the smoke is expected to remain low to the ground as it moves northeast. The highest smoke impacts are predicted on the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

The agency said gusty winds would continue overnight, but the wind pattern would blow the smoke away from Flagstaff.

Earlier this week, the blaze prompted authorities to close part of US Highway 89 in both directions north of Flagstaff. Officials said it could reopen before the weekend depending on weather conditions and fire activity.

Parts of the Coconino National Forest are also closed, according to the US Forest Service.

The Forest Service has advised drivers not to take Forest Route 244A to avoid the US 89 closure. “Maps direct people around the fire using Forest Service roads, but those roads are DANGEROUS and blocked” , the agency tweeted.

CNN’s Jason Hanna and Amir Vera contributed to this report.


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