Arizona Sheriff: Mexican Smugglers Set Fire

His comments back John McCain; he's not referring to big Wallow Fire
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2011 6:02 PM CDT
Arizona Sheriff Blames Mexican Drug Smugglers for Starting Wildfire
Flames from the Monument Fire move toward Highway 92 in Sierra Vista, Ariz., on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Sierra Vista Herald-Bisbee Daily Review, Beatrice Richardson)

An Arizona sheriff has backed up John McCain and blamed Mexican drug smugglers for starting at least one of the state's raging wildfires. Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever wasn't referring to the enormous Wallow Fire but to a smaller one called the Monument Fire that has burned up 27,000 acres to date near the US-Mexico border, reports Reuters. "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," he said today.

McCain drew criticism over the weekend when he cited "substantial evidence" that illegal immigrants had started some wildfires, and he stood by the remarks today. "I wouldn't take issue with the senator at all, in fact, I would support absolutely what he is suggesting," said the sheriff. As for the Wallow Fire, which has burned 800 square miles to become the biggest fire in state history, authorities suspect an unattended campire in a national forest is to blame. Two people have been questioned, but no charges have been filed. (Read more Arizona wildfires stories.)

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