Family able to escape Tunnel Fire with newborn but loses home

Posted at 10:25 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 01:25:49-04

FLAGSTAFF — When you hear of the families that lost everything in a wildfire, you may not hear about what exactly losing everything entails.

When Lance and Heather McKay were asked what they lost in the Tunnel Fire, north of Flagstaff, the first thing that came to mind was memories of the years they've been together and family heirlooms from generations that came before them.

"Every couple of hours we think of a new thing and say, 'oh man we lost that,'" said Lance.

On Tuesday when strong winds spread the Tunnel Fire, Lance was in town at work. Heather says she was taking a nap with her kids. She said she woke up to smoke inside her home.

She put her two kids Wyatt, 3, and Luke, who is just one month old in the car — but she couldn't get much else.

"Just a few baby items and some guns," said Heather.

Security cameras caught the final moments before the final moments before the fire ripped through their home.

Now the tough conversations begin.

"He kind of started realizing what is going on. It's hard to explain to a three-year-old," said Heather.

The McKay family are among the about 30 residences that burned so far.

The sheriff's office estimates over 100 properties have been impacted by the Tunnel Fire.

Over 2,000 people have been evacuated — some with nowhere to take their pets or livestock.

The Coconino Humane Association called on at least 40 fosters to help make room for all the incoming furry family members.

From guinea pigs, parrots, dogs, even mini horses, all with a safe place to stay for now.

"I know if I was displaced with my animals, they would be someplace safe, we're doing this [for] free, we will not charge anybody a cent," said Operations Manager Catherine Meeks.

For the first time since the fire started on Tuesday, the U.S. Forest Service was able to try and contain the fire with air support, which they say helped the over 370 firefighter on the ground.

Still, the fire is zero percent contained as of Thursday night.

"Even though we haven't declared a percentage of containment on this fire yet, there has been a lot of work, progress and investment on line construction around many parts of the Tunnel Fire," said Deputy Incident Commander Shelby Erickson. "However we won't be declaring areas with line around them as 'contained' until we're confident the line will hold during the forecasted high and shifting winds through the next few days."

Red flag winds have kept pilots from flying earlier this week.

Coconino County supervisor Patrice Horstman says APS will try to restore utilities to the impacted properties on Friday but that doesn't mean it's safe to immediately return.

"There are many hazards going on out there, there's a lot of propane tanks, and there have been a lot of propane tank explosions. It is not a safe place to return yet," said Horstman.

Horstman said it's ultimately Sheriff Jim Driscoll's decision on when people can return home.

Driscoll told ABC15 on Wednesday that weather will be the biggest factor on allowing residents to return.

The McKay family have started a GoFundMe page.