Hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate in an area near Flagstaff, Arizona as high winds and dry conditions are creating perfect fuel as the rapidly moving wildfire continues to grow and expand. A decades long megadrought, combined with low humidity and high winds, has created tinderbox conditions in the area.
The fire was reported to have started about 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff on Sunday and The Tunnel Fire has spread to cover over 16,000 acres with no containment as of Wednesday. The sheriff’s office estimated that about twenty-five structures have been burned, according to the Coconino National Forest officials. More than 200 firefighters are battling the fast-moving inferno, which is currently 0% contained.
A little over two-thousand people reside in the evacuation area, which includes nearly 800 households, officials said. An additional 250 structures are threatened, which has prompted evacuations of the nearly 800 homes and 1,000 animals in the area.
While the Red Cross has opened a shelter at a local middle school, the Fort Tuthill County Stables has been opened for horses, goats, sheep, pigs and chickens that reside in the evacuation zone, according to the county.
Coconino county declared a state of emergency on Tuesday and the Board of Supervisors has asked for assistance from the state and federal government.
A red flag warning has been canceled in Arizona due to relaxing winds but remain in five neighboring states from Nebraska to New Mexico.
Videos taken in the region show skies covered in orange flames and thick plumes of smoke as the blaze continues to gain traction and spread. Some flame are reaching up to 100 feet, according to officials.
A fire investigation team arrived on Wednesday to help determine the cause of the fire.
The Southwest is experiencing the driest conditions in a t least 1,200 years, a study published in Nature Climate Change in February found.
This is an ongoing event and will be updated as information if available.