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Arizona wildfire burns 6,000 acres; hundreds of homes evacuated

Officials said the Tunnel Fire ignited Sunday afternoon and has since grown to 6,000 acres. Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest/<a href="https://twitter.com/CoconinoNF/status/1516520955899564035?s=20&amp;t=1FbIw5TOnA2ykYFtelp6Nw">Twitter</a>
Officials said the Tunnel Fire ignited Sunday afternoon and has since grown to 6,000 acres. Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest/Twitter

April 20 (UPI) -- Officials in Arizona have ordered communities near Flagstaff to evacuate as a fast-moving forest fire that was sparked over the weekend continues to spread.

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office said it began to evacuate homes in the Timerline-Fernwood area on Tuesday with a shelter being set up in the Sinagua Middle School.

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Patrice Horstman, chairwoman of Flagstaff's board of supervisors, told reporters during a press conference that 766 households have been evacuated, as well as 1,000 animals.

"This is a time, as we've done in the past, for neighbors to help neighbors," she 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 all together as one to get through this."

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As of late Tuesday, the Tunnel Fire, located 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff, had burned more than 6,000 acres due to extremely high winds and was wholly uncontained, the Coconino National Forest said in a statement.

The fire, which ignited Sunday, is fast moving northeast and has jumped U.S. Highway 89. More than 200 firefighters and personnel were battling the blaze, which officials said has destroyed an unconfirmed 25 buildings with more than 250 others under threat.

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"I cannot stress enough how rapidly this fire is moving in a northeasterly direction, and folks, if they are under an evacuation order, [I] cannot stress how important it is to leave the fire area," True Brown, fire management officer of the Flagstaff Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest, said during the press conference.

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Matt McGrath, district ranger, explained the Tunnel Fire was reported to officials at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday and its cause is unknown. A fire investigation team is to arrive Wednesday to identify what sparked it.

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