“I cannot stress enough how rapidly this fire is moving,” Fire Management Officer True Brown said Tuesday.
Local power and gas distribution networks, various historical and cultural sites, as well as 150 businesses are threatened by the fire, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday in a news release.
“Once I got up there, I saw everything was gone. All the houses that I had seen that were there earlier, 45 minutes earlier, except for one, were all burned to the ground,” he told KPNX.
Another resident, Cindy Wilson, left her home as smoke moved close and didn’t know whether it would be standing when she returned, she said.
“I cried driving away, because you just don’t know. You don’t know if you’re going to come home to anything,” she told KPNX.
“(Waiting) is the worst,” she told KPNX. “I sit and watch, and watch and watch, and scroll on Facebook and listen to the feeds that I can access.”
Officers urged people to leave homes
Deputies and other law enforcement officers were evacuating people from their homes, Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll said during Tuesday’s news conference.
“The fire was moving so fast; many of those officers were in harm’s way themselves. And I’m very proud of the fact that we were able to get this evacuation done despite the rapid progression of the fire,” Driscoll said.
“The Tunnel Fire has been fueled by high winds and dry conditions, and the county has deployed all available resources,” Horstman said during the news conference.
About 200 crew members were fighting the fast-moving flames, and the county requested state and federal resources to help fight the fire, officials said Tuesday.
Horstman acknowledged the difficulty of the situation and reassured residents the county would stay behind them.
“This is a time, as we’ve done in the past, for neighbors to help neighbors,” Horstman said. “The county will be here to support everyone during this very difficult time, but together as we’ve done before, we need to be here altogether as one to get through this.”