Sheriff: Arizona's Monument Fire Started By Illegal Migrants Or Smugglers
A Southern Arizona Sheriff said illegal migrants or smugglers likely caused the Monument Fire along the border. The fire has so far burned 64 homes and charred more than 27,000 acres.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever confirmed the fire started 200 yards north of the Mexican border in a place called Smuggler's Gulch inside the Coronado National Memorial Park. He also says he has a good idea who started it.
"It's the only logical explanation and I'm not necessarily saying illegal immigrants. It was illegal activity," Dever said. "It may have been scouts for smuggling organizations who camp out in that area regularly. It could have been a group of backpackers coming through."
The fire was started by humans. There are no suspects. That's all we know for sure. In fact, authorities believe all three border fires currently burning in Arizona were caused by humans. As well as the massive Wallow Fire, which is nowhere near the border.
Could Border Patrol agents have started the Monument Fire?
"Sure. It's possible that the Star Trek Enterprise beaming Scotty up started the fire," Dever said.
In other words, probably not. He clarifies: An agent would have had to leave their vehicle and walk down to the spot to start the fire.
The sheriff points out some clues about the fire's origins.
The Coronado National Memorial was closed down since June 9 because of fire danger. The fire itself started in the park June 12.
That part of the border is easily crossed from Mexico by people on foot. The only border fence anywhere near there is meant to stop vehicles, not people.
Dever's comments come after Arizona Sen. John McCain was widely criticized for blaming illegal migrants for some of the fires.
"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," the republican said at a news conference Saturday.
The U.S. Forest Service is heading the investigations into all the fires burning in Arizona. The agency won't speculate on the nationality of the suspects.