Arizona Wildfires – Crooks and Tunnel Fire updates

Crooks Fire

Current as of 4/22/2022, 6:00:48 PM
Incident Type: Wildfire
Cause: Undetermined
Date of Origin: Monday April 18th, 2022 approx. 10:00 AM
Location: 11 miles south of Prescott Arizona
Incident Commander: Rocky Opliger, CIIMT 4
Coordinates: 34.403 latitude, -112.426 longitude

Current Situation
Total Personnel: 535
Size: 2,804 Acres
Percent of Perimeter Contained: 5%
Fuels Involved: Timber (Litter and Understory), Chaparral

Significant Events
Winds testing the fire area today, with some flanking and spotting in the vicinity of Lookout Mountain. Heavy dead and down fuels are drought stressed and very receptive to embers where fire moves up into crowns and trees torch out.

Weather Concerns
A passing weather system brought strong southwest winds to the fire, with afternoon gusts near 40 mph. Daytime humidity dropped to around 40%, which was significantly higher than the last several days. High temperatures ranged from the mid-40s to mid-50s. In addition, a few light rain showers formed in the area, but no measurable precipitation was observed over the fire.

Tonight: Gusty winds will continue into the evening, with westerly gusts above 30 mph likely. Otherwise, light winds are forecast over the fire after midnight, along with good humidity recoveries and near freezing low temperatures.

Predicted: A warming and drying trend is forecast for the weekend. Winds will be much lighter, but afternoon humidity as low as 10% is possible by Sunday.

California Interagency Incident Management Team 4 assumed command of the Crooks Fires at 6:00 pm on April 20. Team 4 promptly held a community meeting. To view the recording of the Crooks Fire Community Meeting go HERE.

The fire is burning in continuous thick, dry, dead, and down fuels in very rugged terrain. Erratic winds and fire behavior is making conditions hazardous for firefighters. Firefighter and public safety is the number one objective.

Increased fire activity and growth has firefighters implementing point protection where applicable and safe. Structure assessment activities are progressing in the communities in the immediate fire area. Spotting and fire spread to the west, north and northeast has resulted in firefighters identifying options ahead of the main fire, looking at roads and other natural features to limit fires spread with the use of containment lines.

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Tunnel Fire

Current as of 4/22/2022, 7:17:45 PM
Incident Type: Wildfire
Cause :Under Investigation
Date of Origin: Sunday April 17th, 2022 approx. 04:22 PM
Location: Approx. 14 miles NE of Flagstaff
Incident Commander: Matt Brown
Incident Description: The Tunnel Fire 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff is 20,198 acres as of the evening of April 21 and actually decreased in acreage compared to prior reports due to more accurate mapping.
Coordinates: 35.304 latitude, -111.589 longitude

Current Situation
Total Personnel: 371
Size: 20,924 Acres
Percent of Perimeter Contained: 3%
Fuels Involved: Dry grass and brush. Scattered pine.

Significant Events
Helicopters aided in fire suppression efforts today on the 20,198-acre Tunnel Fire, while crews continued making progress dousing hotspots along the fire’s western flank near Forest Road 420 (Schultz Pass Road) and around Timberline Estates and Wupatki Trail subdivisions.

In addition, hand crews continued establishing handline on the southern edge of the fire east of the Pinnacle Peak 345KV powerline and on the north edge of the fire below and east of O’Leary Peak. They will continue looking for opportunities to extend these fire lines to the east.

“Even though we haven’t declared a percentage of containment on this fire yet, there has been a lot of work, progress, and investment on line construction around many parts of the Tunnel Fire,” said Deputy Incident Commander Shelby Erickson. “However, we won’t be declaring areas with line around them as ‘contained’ until we’re confident the line will hold during the forecasted high and shifting winds through the next few days.”

Projected Incident Activity
A Type 1 Incident Management Team has begun arriving and will be supporting current fire suppression efforts.

Remarks
The Coconino National Forest has instituted a Forest Closure Order for the area affected by the Tunnel Fire.

Information about evacuations, structures that have been burned, and when people might be able to return is handled by Coconino County, which is posting updates online via their Coconino County Tunnel Fire page.

The County has also established a Tunnel Fire Call Center at 928-679-8525 for people who may have questions about their property and when they might be able to return.

U.S. Highway 89 is still closed from near milepost 425 (Campbell Road intersection) to 445, but officials are assessing conditions daily and may reopen it before the weekend. These decisions will be based on weather conditions that drive fire activity and whether or not it is safe for motorists to travel this stretch of highway.

Windy conditions are expected to continue into Friday with a slight chance of moisture and higher humidity to accompany Friday’s winds. Saturday and Sunday, winds are forecasted to be up to 20 mph, but coming out of the northwest and northeast, that could potentially push embers out of the fire to the south and west.

Tunnel Fire continues to burn despite rain and snow

Crews continued Friday building line around the now 20,924-acre Tunnel Fire northeast of Flagstaff, while battling high winds and welcoming unusual precipitation in the form of scattered rain and sporadic snow showers. Snow and rain did help douse dry grasses and keep them from igniting more easily, but precipitation levels weren’t high enough to affect large burning logs and extreme hotspots across most of the fire. High winds also resulted in drying out precipitation very quickly after it dropped. Two areas of the fire were active even with the moisture.

The spot fire that began last night on 89 Mesa in the Schultz Fire burn scar grew to 500 acres today, with large downed trees left over from the Schultz Fire helping keep the spot alive. Firefighters were able to create a line around the entire spot fire, but strong winds continued to cultivate dry conditions.

The second active area was in the northeast portion of the fire in the Strawberry Crater Wilderness area. This finger of the Tunnel Fire burned actively and fortunately moved out into flatter terrain and sparser fuel which is expected to slow the fire’s growth. Across the rest of the fire, bulldozers and hand crews are building line around the edge of the fire between O’Leary Peak and Black Mountain and crews continued to patrol and mop up hot spots in the Timberline Estates and Wupatki Trails subdivisions, as well as along the southern flank of the fire along Forest Road 545.

U.S. Highway 89 is still closed from near milepost 425 (Campbell Road intersection) to 445, but officials are assessing conditions daily. The reopening of the highway is dependent on fire activity and closure allows quick and safe response for firefighters. Information about evacuations, structures that have been burned, and when people might be able to return is handled by Coconino County, which is posting updates online via their Coconino County Tunnel Fire page. The County has also established a Coconino County Tunnel Fire Call Center at 928-679-8525 that the public can call with questions.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office released a statement last night that an estimated 109 properties were impacted by the fire, including 30 residences that were burned and 24 properties with outbuildings destroyed.

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