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GV News: Border Patrol confirms off-duty agent tied to Sawmill Fire

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GV News: Border Patrol confirms off-duty agent tied to Sawmill Fire

  • Some of the 40,000 acres burned in the Sawmill Fire.
    Paul Ingram/ Some of the 40,000 acres burned in the Sawmill Fire.

The Tucson Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol confirmed Thursday that the investigation into the Sawmill Fire involves one of their off-duty employees, the Green Valley News reported.

An email from the sector's public affairs office said, "We are aware that the Sawmill fire investigation involves an off-duty Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent. The agent was involved in recreational shooting and immediately reported the fire after it begun. All questions regarding the investigation should be directed to the state fire agency."

Other sources had confirmed Tuesday to the Green Valley News and Sahuarita Sun that a man target shooting on state land east of Green Valley started the Sawmill Fire on Sunday that has burned nearly 47,000 acres. The newspaper was the first to report that a target shooter had sparked the blaze.

The man was firing at exploding targets when brush apparently ignited near Box Canyon and Santa Rita Ranch at about 11 a.m. He tried to put out the blaze, then called to report it. He later turned himself in, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Read more details at Border Patrol says off-duty employee tied to Sawmill Fire

The fire has burned about 47,000 acres southeast of Tucson. Officials said Thursday that the fire was about 40 percent contained, with 800 personnel working the blaze, including aircraft and ground crews. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph hampered efforts to halt the fire Thursday, but there was "minimal fire activity." Officials increased their assessment of containment from the 20 percent reported Wednesday.

The size of the burned-out area was estimated to be 46,954 acres, up from about 40,000 acres Wednesday night.

With winds and low humidity continuing Friday, there is still a high potential for "extreme fire behavior," officials said Thursday night.

The firefighting effort has cost about $1.6 million thus far, the Green Valley News reported.

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