Powerful Arizona wildfire forces more than 2,000 residents to flee

  • Firefighters are battling a fast-growing wildfire in Arizona, dubbed the Tunnel Fire.
  • Thousands of residents have fled their homes.
  • So far, 24 structures have been destroyed and hundreds more homes are under threat.

Firefighters faced high winds and bone-dry conditions Wednesday as they battled a fast-growing wildfire in central Arizona that has already driven thousands of residents from their homes and destroyed two dozen structures.

The fire, dubbed the Tunnel Fire, covered an area of ​​about 6,000 acres as it moved northeast, 14 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, firefighters said at a news conference Tuesday night.

“I can’t stress enough how fast this fire is moving,” said True Brown, a fire management officer for the Coconino National Forest. “I cannot stress enough how important it is to leave the fire area.”

The fire has burned out more than 2,000 residents of 760 homes in Coconino County, said Patrice Horstman, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.

The fire destroyed 24 structures and threatened to destroy hundreds more, authorities said.

Some 200 firefighters battling the flames will face a day of 30-mph wind gusts and humidity percentage in the teens on Wednesday and Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

“The combination of gusty winds and low humidity can cause the fire to rapidly grow in size and intensity before first responders can contain it,” the service said in a fire watch advisory issued Thursday.

Like other southwestern states affected by climate change, Arizona is experiencing an early start to its fire season. Dry grass and brush, along with scattered pine trees, are fueling the fire, officials said.

Last week, an elderly couple died at home when a wildfire swept through Ruidoso, New Mexico, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee the mountain city.

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