Thousands flee as Arizona wildfires nearly triple

April 20 (Reuters) – Wind-powered Arizona wildfires nearly tripled on Wednesday after burning thousands of buildings and forcing thousands to flee their homes in drought-hit rural areas.

The fire, known as the Tunnel Fire, spread 14 miles (23 km) northeast of uninhabited mountains and valleys north of Flagstaff, Arizona, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The flames have burned 16,625 acres, making it larger than Manhattan, moving through the Sunset Greater Volcano National Monument, which includes a visitor center and sidewalks.

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On April 20, 2022, smoke billowed from a tunnel fire north of Flockstaff, Arizona. Through Mark Henley / USA Today Network REUTERS

The Coconut County Board of Supervisors said the fire, which was driven by traditionally fast spring winds, forced more than 2,000 residents to flee their homes.

The district sheriff’s office said at least 25 structures were burned after the fire moved through areas of the Wupatki Trails and Timberline Estate communities built in the pine forest.

Areas Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado have been experiencing intermittent drought for more than two decades, with average temperatures rising by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, according to data from the Desert Research Institute. And the National Maritime and Atmospheric Administration.

About 360 miles east, an elderly couple in Ruidoso, New Mexico, died at their home last week, with wildfires destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee the mountain city. read more

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Report by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Andrew Hay in Davos, New Mexico; Editing by Gareth Jones, Nick McPhee and Aurora Ellis

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