Who Started The Wildfires?

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Arizona Wildfires

Arizona is home to some of America’s largest wildfires this year.  There’s the Monument fire, the Wallow fire and the brand new Willow fire.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Horseshoe Two fire, which started before the other three.  Thankfully, that one is 80% contained.  There’s been a lot of talk about how the fires were started by humans.  But, exactly WHO was it?  Senator John McCain claims to know.  And, boy is HE starting a political fire by speaking out on the subject!

(Courtesy of Laurie Merrill & Edythe JensenArizona Republic)

Sen. John McCain fanned some political flames when he said some wildfires blazing in Arizona were likely started by people who crossed the border illegally.

“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” McCain, R-Ariz., said during a news conference in Springerville on Saturday, apparently referring to blazes in southern Arizona. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”

However, when he was asked which fires were started by immigrants, he did not provide any specific examples.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R- Ariz., who also was at the news conference, offered an answer.

“Horseshoe was one,” he said, referring to a May 2010 blaze near Portal (not this year’s Horseshoe Two Fire).

The senators’ remarks came a day after Gov. Jan Brewer said that the causes and sources of two southern Arizona fires have not been determined and that an investigation is under way.

Authorities are blaming the Wallow Fire in northern Arizona on an abandoned campfire and questioned two “persons of interest,” but the people’s identities were not released and no arrests were made. The U.S. Forest Service said an investigation is ongoing.

When asked whether illegal immigrants may have played a role in the Wallow Fire, Tom Berglund, a Forest Service spokesman, said, “Absolutely not, according to what I’ve been told.”

“It is frustrating that John McCain is saying things that are baseless and unsubstantiated,” said Randy Parraz of Scottsdale, an immigration activist who sought the Democratic nomination in 2010 to challenge for McCain’s Senate seat. “Is he connected to reality or trying to fan the flames of fear and intolerance?”

McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan responded in a series of e-mails late Sunday that the senator was referring to the Horseshoe fire based on information he received from a Forest Service Official.

She later said that was incorrect and was seeking clarification from another member of the senator’s staff. “But I know for sure Sen. McCain wasn’t saying the Wallow Fire was caused by illegal immigrants.”

Buchanan also wrote that local news reports said “illegal immigrants likely had something to do with the fires along the border this year.”

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