Off-duty agent named in Sawmill Fire, investigation continues - Tucson News Now

Off-duty agent named in Sawmill Fire, investigation continues

(Source: See It, Snap It, Send It) (Source: See It, Snap It, Send It)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It's been a month since the Sawmill Fire sparked on April 23 in southern Arizona, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Records released by the Pima County Sheriff's Department show a man interviewed the first day of the fire told deputies he was target shooting in the area and started the fire.

The paperwork states that Dennis Dickey said he was shooting Tannerite, an explosive material commonly used for target practice.

The PCSD did not file charges against Dickey because the investigation is being handled by the U.S. Forest Service.

Heidi Schewel, a spokeswoman for Coronado National Forest, said Tuesday, May 23, that the incident is still under investigation. When that process is complete, she said it will be handed over to the U.S. Attorney's Office to decide if charges should be filed. It could include criminal charges, a civil lawsuit or both.

The Sawmill Fire burned through state land as well.

Tiffany Davila, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, said the U.S. Forest Service is handling the entire investigation and will share the results with the state. She said it would be up to the Arizona Department of Land Management to decide if charges should be filed for the cost to the state.

The flames on April 23 forced Andrew McGibbon's family and employees away from Santa Rita Ranch. He didn't make it out in time and did what he could to help the firefighters protecting his property. 

"It's a humbling experience, I'll tell you," he said.

Everyone survived and the homes were saved, but McGibbon lost equipment and fencing in the Sawmill Fire.

He said brush fires aren't unusual around his approximately 80,000 acre ranch outside Green Valley, but the flames closing in on his home were too much.

Recreational shooting is more common, according to McGibbon. He said four to five different shooting sites can be heard on any given weekend. He said he's told people when they're in the wrong - some listen, some don't. McGibbon said he doesn't understand why anyone would bring Tannerite into the hot, dry conditions around his ranch.

"Where's the common sense gone?" he asked. "It just seems to me like a perfect situation, a perfect recipe for a disaster."

McGibbon said there are already signs up warning people about recreational shooting, and he understands that resources are already strained with state and local law enforcement.

The deputy who interviewed Dickey the day of the fire was called away from the scene because of a domestic violence situation involving a gun, according to PCSD records.

"It's just not a priority, and I get it," said McGibbon. "Do what you can."

Despite the on-going investigation and multi-million dollar effort to fight the Sawmill Fire, McGibbon said he's doubtful that anything will change when it comes to recreational shooting and enforcement around his property.

Border Patrol Tucson Sector stated previously that one of its agents was being investigated in connection to the Sawmill Fire for recreational shooting off-duty.

A message from the sector's media affairs team stated Tuesday that the agency would not name the agent because it was an off-duty issue.

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