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Tunnel fire: Fast-moving wildfire in Arizona destroys dozens of structures and forces hundreds to evacuate

The tunnel fire in Coconino County, Arizona, grew to more than 6,000 acres on Tuesday after it was first reported Sunday afternoon, officials said at a news conference. It was contained at 0% on Tuesday evening.

“The fire is moving rapidly northeast with the strong winds we experienced today,” said fire management officer True Brown.

“I can’t stress enough how quickly this fire is moving,” he said, adding that “unprecedented” winds had fueled the fire.

The fire is located about 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff, according to InciWeb, and its cause is unknown.

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

Deputies and other law enforcement officers were on the ground evacuating people from their homes, Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll said at the news conference.

“The fire was moving so fast; many of these officers were in danger themselves. And I’m very proud that we were able to complete this evacuation despite the rapid progress of the fire,” Driscoll said.

County officials have declared a local emergency because of the fire, said Horstman, who urged people to keep up to date with the progress of the fire on the county’s website.

“The tunnel fire was fueled by high winds and dry conditions, and the county deployed all available resources,” Horstman said at the press conference.

About 200 crew members are battling the fast-moving flames, and the county has requested state and federal resources to help fight the blaze, officials said Tuesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it approved the request for federal funding, which would cover up to 75% of eligible firefighting costs, according to a news release.

Local electricity and gas distribution networks, various historical and cultural sites, as well as 150 businesses are threatened by the fire, FEMA said.

Horstman acknowledged the difficulty of the situation and reassured residents that the county would stay behind them.

“It’s a time, like we’ve done in the past, for neighbors helping neighbors,” Horstman said. “The county will be there to support everyone during this very difficult time, but together, as we have done before, we must all be here together to get through this.”

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