A wind-driven Arizona wildfire nearly tripled in size after destroying scores of properties and forced thousands of people to abandon their homes in a drought-stricken rural area.
According to the Inciweb fire reporting system, the Tunnel Fire moved northeast over largely unpopulated hills 14 miles (23 km) north of Flagstaff, Arizona, scorching 16,625 acres, or an area greater than Manhattan.
True Brown, a fire control officer with the Coconino National Forest, told reporters late Tuesday, “I cannot stress enough how quickly this fire is going.” “I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to get out of the fire zone.”
The fire, which was fueled by typical spring winds, forced more than 2,000 residents to flee their homes, according to the Coconino County Board of Supervisors. A total of 24 structures have been destroyed by the fire.
According to data from the Desert Research Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the area is part of a swath of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado that has been engulfed in a largely unrelenting drought for more than two decades after average temperatures rose about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century.
An elderly couple died in their home in Ruidoso, New Mexico, last week when a wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes and prompted many to escape the mountain hamlet 360 miles to the east.