Human-caused Sawmill Fire grows to more than 40K acres

A new estimate based on recent mapping doubles the size of a southern Arizona wildfire to 62.5 square miles (161.9 sq. kilometers).

The Sawmill Fire burning southeast of Tucson was at 40,356 acres late Wednesday, with wind gusts Thursday in the area expected to hit up to 35 miles per hour.

The order was issued at approximately 3:15 p.m., a little more than an hour after a pre-evacuation notice alerted people living near the Sawmill Fire that the Sonoita Fairgrounds were open for anyone wishing to relocate themselves and their animals.

The human-caused fire is still under investigation as to how is started, but crews say they first received reports of the flames on Sunday.

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The Sonoita-Elgin Fire District posted on Facebook Monday night that the fire swept through residences in the area's Singing Valley, but no homes were lost.

Smoke rising on the Green Valley side of the mountain today was coming from precautionary back burns, Green Valley Fire Chief Chuck Wunder said.

The fire, which started Sunday south of Green Valley near Madera Canyon, blew northeastward across the northern foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. All the nuns ended up staying at a bed-and-breakfast.

There are seven helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft assigned to the operation, said Manny Cordova, a fire incident management team spokesman.

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"A full suppression strategy is being employed to protect nearby values at risk including homes, ranches and outbuildings, communications facilities, powerlines, and the Arizona National Scenic Trail", Andrews said.

Due to the increasing complexity of the blaze, management of the blaze transitioned to a Type I Incident Management Team Thursday, Inciweb reported.

Fire management officials say reduced winds Wednesday is expected to help the firefighting effort as ground crews connect and bolster containment lines around the fire's perimeter. No structures have been damaged but a number of homes already have been evacuated.

The Empire Ranch, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is 10 miles north of Sonoita and 50 miles southeast of Tucson in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.

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"The Sawmill Fire is now burning on lands under the jurisdiction of the Coronado National Forest, Bureau of Land Management and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management", the late afternoon release stated.


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