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Winds Whip Fires Again; McCain Puts Some Blame On Illegal Immigrants

The Monument fire burns Saturday, June 18, 2011 in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
The Monument fire burns Saturday, June 18, 2011 in Sierra Vista, Ariz.

In southern Arizona, the so-called Monument wildfire has now forced "10,000 people from 4,300 homes" to flee the area, according to The Associated Press.

Winds whipped the flames on Sunday. Firefighters may get a break today: Winds are projected to reach "just 10 mph," the AP says.

To the north, "the massive Wallow fire that has been burning in eastern Arizona for three weeks kept about 200 residents of Luna, N.M., under an evacuation order for a second day."

And in northcentral Arizona, "a new wildfire ... could threaten powerlines running to Phoenix," the AP reports.

Meanwhile, "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," The Arizona Republicreports:

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain, [R-AZ], 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."

The newspaper adds that:

"When [McCain] was asked which fires were started by immigrants, he did not provide any specific examples. Sen. Jon Kyl, [R-AZ], 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)."

Authorities have said that a campfire likely started the Wallow blaze. A Forest Service spokesman, Tom Berglund, told the Republicthat he knows of no evidence that illegal immigrants were involved in starting that fire.

Update at 9:20 a.m. ET: Salon.com reports it's been told by McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan that the senator "was given the information by a Forest Service official during his visit to the Wallow fire damaged area on Saturday." And it adds that "Buchanan says that McCain wasn't referring to the Wallow fire, but rather some smaller blazes at Coronado National Forest near the U.S.-Mexico border."

Jim Upchurch, forest supervisor at Coronado, did tell the Arizona Daily Star that "the great majority, if not all the fires, on the Coronado National Forest (this year) have been human-caused. Causes of fires include ricocheting bullets, campfires, welding equipment and possibly ignition by smugglers or illegal immigrants."

And theStar reported on June 12 that "the two largest wildfires burning in Southern Arizona originated in rugged, mountainous corridors frequently used by cross-border people and drug smugglers ... [and] were human-caused."

Still, authorities have not determined the cause of the fire in southern Arizona.

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