Border Patrol: off-duty agent sparked Sawmill Fire

- Officials with the Border Patrol said Thursday afternoon that an off-duty Border Patrol agent who was recreationally shooting caused the Sawmill Fire.

The off-duty officer, according to Border Patrol officials, immediately reported the fire. Fire officials said the incident remains under investigation.

High winds, along with other factors, have led officials to ground aircrafts that were being used to battle the fire Thursday.

"There wasn't a lot of activity, so there wasn't a great need for aviation activity," said one official.

Live news conference on Facebook. (Can't see the video? Click here)

Once winds die down, officials said they plan to use an unmanned drone to take a look at the area.

As of midday Thursday, the Sawmill Fire has burned over 40,000 acres of land, and it is 20 percent contained. The fire began Sunday about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) southeast of Green Valley. It then burned its way eastward through the Santa Rita Mountains and across a wide valley.

Fire officials said Thursday was a good day, in the sense that the fire has not grown by much.

"As long as the weather holds, we'll be OK," said John Moran, fire chief for J6/Mescal.

On Thursday night, fire officials held a community meeting at the J6 Community Bible Church. The church was packed, as officials gave an update on the fire, and how it affects the area. Moran said the J6 community is still under pre-evacuation.

"We've been fortunate so far," said Moran. "Obviously, it's kind of in the line of fire, so they're worried about it, but fire crews are getting a really good handle on it."

600 people are battling the blaze, and there is no report of any injuries, or structures being damaged, as a result of the fire.

Meanwhile, Moran said he and his crews are ready, when needed, if the fire is to get worse.

"We have about 20 volunteers," said Moran.

(Can't see this Facebook post? Click here)

On Thursday afternoon, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced State Route 83 has been reopened. It had been closed since Monday afternoon due to the fire.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

Sawmill Fire information

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