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‘No evidence’ for blaming wildfires on immigrants, says Forest Service

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked at a press conference Saturday in Springerville, Ariz., about the Wallow Fire burning in Arizona and Western New Mexico. He answered:

First of all we are concerned particularly about areas down on the border where there is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally. They have set fires because they want to signal others; they have set fires to keep warm; and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them. So the answer to that part of the problem is: get a secure border.

A U.S. Forest Service official told ABC News that there is “no evidence” to support Sen. McCain’s claim of “substantial evidence” of the fires being caused by illegal immigrants. The Forest Service thinks the fires were started by an “escaped campfire.”

Justin Elliott asked Sen. McCain’s spokeswoman what he was referring to:

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.

She points to comments earlier this month by Jim Upchurch, forest supervisor at Coronado, who told the Arizona Daily Star that closing the forest was necessary because “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.”

The Coronado Forest has been closed since June 6 for “extreme fire danger.” However, the Wallow Fire is not on the U.S-Mexico border.

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