Feds ID, interview suspect in Molino wildfire sparked by shotgun blasts
Man videoed firing shotgun loaded with incendiary rounds at homemade target, officials said
A man who was caught on video firing a shotgun that caused sparks to set off a wildfire that burned around 115 acres near Tucson has been identified and interviewed, U.S. Forest Service officials said.
The man, whose name was not released to the public, was located by investigators after the public "provided multiple timely and actionable tips," officials said Thursday.
"The case has now been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office," said Starr Farrell, a spokeswoman for USFS.
Federal fire investigators released footage Tuesday showing a 50- to 60-year-old white man fire a shotgun at a homemade target. The shotgun may have been loaded with incendiary rounds, and flying sparks from the blasts ignited grass and caused the Molino 2 wildfire on Sunday, authorities said.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department closed the Catalina Highway so crews could work to knock out the wildfire in the mountains north of Tucson, and on Monday, helicopter and air tankers were needed to attack the fire's north and south flanks using water from Rose Canyon Lake.
In the video, the man, wearing a light-grey shirt and cargo pants, walked forward with shotgun before he fired five shots at a target covered in a reflective gold material. There were two cardboard targets as well.
The video panned to the left to show smoke and growing flames clearly visible in nearly a dozen spots.
Using incendiary rounds and starting a wildfire are federal misdemeanors, and the man could face up to 6 months in jail and a $5,000 fine, Farrell said.
Fireworks, exploding targets and incendiary devices are not allowed on federally managed public lands year-round.
Explosives started 2017 Sawmill Fire
In a similar incident, a U.S. Border Patrol agent caused the 2017 Sawmill Fire when he shot at a target packed with explosives. Dennis Dickey, then off duty, ignited grasslands near Green Valley when he fired at a target packed with tannerite as part of a "gender reveal" stunt. The explosion sent a cloud of blue powder into the air before igniting the Sawmill Fire, which consumed nearly 45,000 acres of land and caused millions in damage in April 2017.
Dickey later pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor and agreed to pay more than $8.1 million in damages.