Over 200 fire personnel from multiple fire agencies around the state are battling the Sawmill Fire, which was burning an estimated 15,000 acres about 40 miles in the Coronado National Forest, according to the Arizona Department of Forestry.
Golder Ranch Fire District
1 of 3
The Sawmill Fire continues to blaze in southern Arizona off of State Route 83 south of the Interstate 10, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Arizona Department of Transportation
2 of 3
Fire officials use planes and various methods to fight Sawmill Fire, according to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management
3 of 3
Raw Video: Sawmill Fire burns south of Tucson
Sawmill Fire burns along highway
Arizona officials continue to fight Sawmill Fire blaze
An off-duty Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent is suspected of causing the Sawmill Fire burning in southeastern Arizona, authorities said Thursday afternoon.
A statement from the Tucson Sector Border Patrol said the off-duty agent was involved in recreational shooting when the fire sparked about 10 miles southeast of Green Valley midday Sunday.
The agent immediately reported the fire to authorities, the Border Patrol said.
The Border Patrol deferred all other questions about the investigation to be directed to the state agency investigating the fire.
The Sawmill Fire has burned an estimated 40,356 acres and is about 20 percent contained, fire officials reported Thursday afternoon.
More than 600 fire personnel from federal, state and local agencies have responded to the area, where an upswing in winds from the southeast grounded air operations on Thursday.
The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday in a Facebook post that the next 24 hours would be critical for the fire due to weather.
A red-flag warning is in effect Thursday as fuels of tall grass, chaparral mesquite, oak brush and pinyon-juniper in the riparian woodland continue to be a concern.
The fire has been upgraded to a Type I incident.
There have been no reports of structural damage or injuries, though evacuations and pre-evacuations have occurred.
Heidi Schewel, a spokesperson for the Coronado National Forest, told The Arizona Republic the fire was human-caused but could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
“People need to be using caution at all times of the year, including now. This was human-caused and it was unnecessary,” Schewel said. “This is an example of what the conditions are like on public lands where there is an accumulation of grasses along the landscape.”
Schewel said the fire has impacted state lands, land in the Coronado National Forest and land operated by the Bureau of Land Management.
She said a buildup of very flammable grass can become a “complex issue” when wind changes the course of the blaze.
State Route 83, a scenic drive spanning from Interstate 10 to Parker Canyon Lake, reopened Thursday after being closed for three days.
Gov. Doug Ducey and Department of Emergency and Military Affairs Director Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire have requested that the federal government to utilize an unmanned aerial asset from the Arizona Air National Guard to assist crews as they continue to contain the Sawmill Fire.
Ducey said his office and DEMA hoped to ensure ground firefighters had every resource available.
“I commend the hundreds of brave first responders working around the clock to fight wildfires in Arizona,” said Ducey in a statement. “These men and women have been operating in incredibly tough conditions and putting their lives on the line for the sake of their fellow citizens. We are praying for their safety as well as all of those affected by these fires.”
Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2oOrE3k