Border Boletín: Sheriff Dever says illegal immigrants likely started Monument Fire

2011-06-21T15:30:00Z 2011-07-27T14:39:08Z Border Boletín: Sheriff Dever says illegal immigrants likely started Monument FireBrady McCombs Arizona Daily Star
June 21, 2011 3:30 pm  • 

As I wrote about last week, the Monument Fire is the third major Southern Arizona fire this summer that started in rugged, mountainous corridors frequently used by people and drug smugglers. That's led to speculation that some, or all, of these fires may have been caused by illegal immigrants or smugglers.

That speculation was brought to the national stage last weekend by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., when he said that there was "substantial evidence" that border crossers were partly responsible for wildfires in the state. Despite being blasted by critics including Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., that he was "provoking an extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Latino atmosphere in Arizona," McCain stood behind his comments.

On Tuesday at a press conference, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever backed McCain's assertion when asked about the origin of the Monument Fire burning south of Sierra Vista at a Tuesday morning press conference. While acknowledging that anything is a possibility outside of lightning, Dever said he believes it was most likely started by smugglers or illegal immigrants, according to this Reuters story and this KVOA story.

"It wasn't the rabbits or the rattle snakes that started this fire, it was human beings, and the only human beings believed to be occupying (the area) were smugglers or illegal aliens," Dever said.

Drawing on his 35 years of law enforcement in Cochise County, Dever said it's a "90 to 100 percent" probability it was started by smugglers or illegal immigrants, according to the video on the KVOA website.

He pointed out — like many residents in the area have — that the Coronado National Forest had been closed to the public since June 9 at noon. The Monument Fire started on June 12 at about noon, right near the U.S.-Mexico border.

"So, whoever started the fire was there illegally," Dever said.

Border Patrol agents have access as needed to the Coronado National Forest, preventing illegal immigrants and smugglers from having unfettered access to the corridor, said Brandon Judd, president of Local 2544, the union for Arizona Border Patrol agents.

Forest Service officials have said the Monument Fire was human caused but have repeatedly declined to speculate on who and what set the blaze, citing the ongoing investigation.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Relocating your office? We can make your move seamless and have you up and running quicker!

Our movers can help your company make a smooth transition from…