By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
One of the first major Arizona wildfires of the 2018 season has consumed over 9,000 acres in Coconino County.
As of Tuesday morning, the Tinder Fire had burned more than 14 square miles in Arizona's Coconino National Forest. The inferno remains uncontained.
County sheriff issued a mandatory evacuation order on Monday for about 1,000 homes. The blaze also threatens four businesses, two fire stations, two communication towers, churches and utility lines.
The vast majority of residents have been evacuated, Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll told county officials. Driscoll added that about eight residents refused to leave the area.
One evacuation site was set up at a Navajo casino resort after being moved from a junior high school because of smoke.
Officials said there was no estimated timeline for when residents could return to their homes.
Arizona Governor Declares State of Emergency
On Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency, which frees state resources to help fight the blaze.
"I'm issuing today's declaration to ensure that they have the necessary resources to protect the lives, pets and property of Arizonans," the Governor said in a statement.
Fire Threatened 700 Homes in and around Blue Ridge Community
The Tinder Fire threatened 700 homes on Monday around the unincorporated community of Blue Ridge. Fire officials hope to get an estimate on Tuesday of how many structures have burned.
“Officials estimated that 20 to 30 structures were damaged or destroyed by Monday morning, but additional details about what type or where had not yet been confirmed,” the Arizona Republic newspaper reported.
Tinder Fire Still under Investigation, But May Have Human Cause
Fire crews first responded to the wildfire on Friday afternoon. Coconino National Forest officials said the fire was “believed to be human caused.” But the exact origin of the fire is still under investigation, the Republic said.
According to local officials, the Tinder Fire started about 11 a.m. on Friday and had burned several hundred acres by Sunday. “That's when high winds, low humidity and dry vegetation fueled the fire's rapid growth. Experts said winds pushed the fire about two miles in less than two hours Sunday,” the Republic reported.
FEMA Authorizes Use of Federal Funds to Assist Firefighters
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to assist the firefighting efforts. “Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs) provide federal funding for up to 75 percent of eligible firefighting costs,” the FEMA announcement said.