Tunnel fire evacuations lifted in Arizona, but officials warn of hazardous conditions as the unpredictable blaze rages on


The fire has been burning across northern Arizona’s Coconino County for nearly a week and is only 3% contained as of Sunday, the latest InciWeb report said. Firefighting crews remain in the area as they continue relief efforts.

Orders have changed from “evacuate” to “prepare to evacuate” based on a statewide emergency response system, according to the report.

The report cautioned residents returning to their homes to beware of hazardous conditions the blaze left behind.

“Examples of hazards include fire weakened trees that may fall without warning, loss of ground vegetation can loosen rolling debris and rocks and ash pits from stumps may look benign, but will hold hot ash for quite a while and can cause severe burns if stepped in,” the report said.

The blaze started April 17 just north of Flagstaff. At least two dozen buildings have been destroyed, officials said. A state of emergency in Coconino County declared by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Thursday remains in effect.

An estimated 2,068 people live in the evacuation area, Patrice Horstman, chair of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, said Wednesday. “From this, 766 households have been evacuated,” along with more than 1,000 animals, Horstman said.

Wildfires rage in other states

Crews are fighting multiple wildfires in New Mexico and Nebraska.

Half of New Mexico is facing issues related to 20 active wildfires in the state, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a news conference Saturday, noting 16 of the state’s 33 counties are battling flames.

Two of the active wildfires burning in New Mexico have combined into one fire, according to a news release from New Mexico Fire Information.

As of Sunday, the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires have burned a collective 54,004 acres and are considered 12% contained. Nearly 500 crew members are fighting the blaze, according to the release.

Friday's expected weather in the Southwest could rival the most powerful fire events of the past decade, meteorologist says

The Hermits Peak fire, which burns near Las Vegas, ignited April 6. Calf Canyon has been burning for nearly a week.

The flames have not destroyed any structures as of Sunday, but it is unclear how many have been damaged in the blaze, said Jayson Coil, Operation Sections Chief for Southwest Area Incident Management Team 1, during an operational update Saturday.

“That’s been the primary effort,” Coil said. “So that’s really good to hear.”

Fire crews focused Saturday on protecting homes to the northwest as well as preventing the fire from moving south into watershed areas, according to the release.

Coil said there is a section of fire in the west near Big Pine that is currently “unstaffed.”

“We recognize there is potential that fire is starting to move, but right now we’re prioritizing our efforts on things that are immediately threatening the structures,” Coil said.

In Nebraska, one person has died as a result of the fires in the southwestern portion of the state.

Retired Fire Chief John P. Trumble, 66, was driving while acting as a spotter. Smoke and dust overcame his visibility, causing his vehicle to leave the road. He was then overwhelmed by fire and smoke, according to the Red Willow County Sheriff’s Office. The Nebraska State Fire Marshal, Red Willow County sheriff and firefighters found Trumble’s body around 3:30 a.m. Saturday, a sheriff’s office release said.

Trumble died whle driving along Road 407, a location that has been part of Nebraska’s larger wildfire emergency, named the Road 702 Fire — which is estimated to have burned over 50,000 acres by Sunday afternoon, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The agency says that Road 702 wildfire flames have enveloped portions of Frontier, Furnas and Red Willow counties. All evacuation orders previously issued for the blaze have been lifted as of Sunday afternoon, NEMA notes.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts activated more than two dozen National Guard personnel to help fight wildfires whipped up by high winds and dry conditions, the Guard said Saturday.
The crews will help on the ground and by air in the state’s southwest, where wildfires prompted evacuations Saturday. The entire city of Cambridge, home to about 1,000 people, was ordered to evacuate.

CNN’s Abby Bustin contributed to this report.

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