Rangers have responded to five wildfires within the park this month – one started by an arsonist and others suspicious. The park’s engine and wildland firefighters have responded to and suppressed four of them:
The Ranch House Fire destroyed the historic Pozo Well Ranch House before the crew arrived. A separate fire in the near vicinity was quickly suppressed by the crew. Forest Service and National Park Service fire investigators have determined that this fire was arson, as the presence of accelerants in the fire were identified. The chemical analysis was conducted by the Department of Defense through a cooperative agreement between the Southeast Arizona Group and the US Army. No suspects have been identified.
A week later Border Patrol agents reported another wildfire, again near Pozo Well. This fire was ultimately mapped at 2.8 acres. The five ranger crew had to work significantly harder to contain and control it due to terrain challenges. The agent who provided security for the firefighters arrested an undocumented alien who walked up to the fire well after suppression activities had started. Investigators determined that this UDA was not responsible for the fire.
One week later, Border Patrol agents reported a rapidly spreading fire near the international border east of the Lukeville Port of Entry. The agents had one person in custody, a suspected smuggler wearing carpet shoes. The fire consumed just over one acre. The investigation and evidence did not warrant charges being filed in this.
A week later, ranger Nathan Burgess discovered a fire south of the Ajo Mountain Loop Road. During the size up, rangers were approached by an undocumented alien in severe medical distress. The man said he started the fire after being lost in the desert without food or water for three days. The man was evacuated by life flight. Rangers are not pursuing criminal charges against him. Rangers, resource management staff, and maintenance personnel – joined by Fish and Wildlife Service officers, Pima County Sheriff’s Department deputies and a National Guard helicopter – returned to and contained this fire.
The size of these fires and the number of starts is above average for the park.