Arizona wildfire doubles in size, forces residents to flee

An Arizona wildfire doubled in size overnight and encompassed 26 square miles on Wednesday morning.

Coconino County officials declared an emergency after the “Tunnel Fire” quickly grew from 100 acres to more than 9 square miles overnight.

Driven by whipping winds, Ponderosa pines and dry grass, the fire levelled two dozen structures and forced residents of more than 700 homes to evacuate.

ARIZONA WILDFIRE SPREADS TO OVER 6,000 ACRES, LEADING TO EVACUATIONS

Large plumes of smoke were seen outside of Flagstaff and the fire was pushed onto a major highway Tuesday.

The wildfire closed US 89 and high winds grounded aircraft that could dump water and fire retardant.

Power was cut to approximately 625 customers, according to Arizona Public Service Co.

Coconino County officials said during a news conference Tuesday night that 1,000 animals have also been evacuated and that more than 200 structures remain under threat.

While authorities had gone door-to-door telling people to leave, Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll said firefighters and law enforcement officers had to retreat to avoid being boxed in.

He said his office received a call about a man who was trapped inside his home, but firefighters were unable to locate him.

“We don’t know if he made it out or not,” Driscoll said.

Authorities won’t be able to determine if anyone was injured in the wildfire until the flames subside.

ARIZONA WILDFIRES FORCE RESIDENTS TO EVACUATE

Around 200 firefighters were battling the blaze and more are expected as a high-level national management team takes over later this week.

The fire is moving northeast, away from Flagstaff and toward Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, according to Coconino National Forest spokesman Brady Smith.

“It’s good because it’s not heading towards a very populated area and it’s heading towards less fuel,” he said. “But depending on the intensity of the fire, the fire can still move through the ash.”

The fire is 0% contained, so windy and dry conditions are expected throughout the week.

The fire started Sunday afternoon, though investigators still don’t know what caused it.

Elsewhere in Arizona, firefighters battled a wildfire in a sparsely populated area of ​​the Prescott National Forest.

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The National Interagency Fire Center reported Tuesday that nearly 2,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel were assigned to more than a dozen large wildfires in the Southwest, Southwest and Rocky Mountain areas.

Scientists say climate change has made the West hotter and drier and will continue to make wildfires more frequent and destructive.