Sawmill Fire near Green Valley exceeds 4,500 acres

The Sawmill Fire near Green Valley in the Santa Rita Mountains has grown to more than 2,000 acres.

By Jon Johnson

SANTA RITA MOUNTAINS – A small brush fire started at about 11 a.m., Sunday, has grown into a wildfire larger than 4,500 acres as gusty conditions swept it through dry areas of the Santa Rita Mountains, roughly 10 miles southeast of Green Valley.

The Sawmill Fire glows at dusk Sunday night.

No structures have been reported damaged, but 12 people, including Green Valley Fire District Chief Chuck Wunder, have been evacuated from their homes. Wunder told KGUN-9 News, an ABC affiliate in Tucson, about what it felt like to be on the other side of such a situation.

“When you see that go over the back of one of your personal vehicles, it can be a humbling experience,” Wunder said. “And I know, speaking with my wife, they’re doing great now. But it certainly was terrifying and humbling to them as well.”

A plane drops fire retardant at the Sawmill Fire.

As of Monday morning, the Sawmill Fire, which is burning mostly grass and brush, had grown to more than 4,500 acres. While just 5 percent was currently contained, the InciWeb Incident Information System reported an estimated containment date of Tuesday at 6 p.m.

How the fire started is still under investigation, but is most likely human-caused. The incident is currently under the command with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management and the U.S. Forest Service, with about 200 personnel on scene. Other agencies assisting include the Green Valley Fire Department, Tubac Fire, Corona de Tucson Fire Department, Rio Rico Fire, Elephant Head Fire and Arizona Department of Corrections.

The Sawmill Fire grew overnight to more than 2,000 acres but is expected to be contained by Tuesday evening.

Smoke from the fire wafted toward the Gila Valley due to northwestern winds and created a hazy skyline. 

This article was updated Monday afternoon.