Sawmill Fire causes evacuations east of Green Valley, AZ

satellite map Sawmill Fire Arizona

Above: A satellite photographed the darkened outline of the Sawmill Fire east of Green Valley, Arizona on April 26, 2017. The red dots represent heat.

(UPDATED at 9:10 a.m. MDT April 27, 2017)

The growth of the Sawmill Fire east of Green Valley, Arizona slowed Wednesday as decreasing winds allowed air tankers and helicopters to drop water and retardant to assist the firefighters on the ground. The only significant spread that we found on satellite images was an additional 400 acres on the northeast corner of the fire.

As of Wednesday night fire managers were still calling it 40,356 acres.

An evacuation order remains in place for Rain Valley. Since evacuation orders were lifted for Greaterville and Singing Valley, residents of those areas are being allowed through the Arizona Highway 83 closure to access their homes. Arizona Highway 83 remains closed to public traffic.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Thursday and Friday for relative humidities in the teens and strong winds. One of the priorities on Thursday is to use aircraft to help secure the firelines before the winds increase.

Today, April 27, a Type 1 Incident Management Team will assume command of the 606 personnel on the Sawmill Fire.


(UPDATED at 7:47 p.m. MDT April 26, 2017)

At about 2 p.m. MDT the Incident Management Team said the Sawmill Fire had grown to 40,350 acres. At that time there were seven helicopters and three fixed wing aircraft assisting the firefighters on the ground.

On Wednesday morning the incident management team called it 20,000 acres.

At 2:03 p.m. MDT on Wednesday a heat detecting satellite mapped growth of the fire on the south and northeast sides.

map Sawmill Fire Arizona
The red area shows the approximate location of the Sawmill Fire at 2:03 p.m. MDT on April 26, 2017. The white line was the approximate perimeter about 12 hours earlier.

The weather station near the fire at Empire recorded on Wednesday a high temperature of 75, a minimum relative humidity of 12 percent, and wind in the afternoon out of the northwest at 8-12 mph gusting at 20-24.

Sawmill Fire
Undated and uncredited photo of the Sawmill fire. Inciweb photo.


(UPDATED at 11:16 a.m. MDT April 26, 2017)

A fire that started Sunday morning, April 23 eight miles east of Green Valley, Arizona, has burned (we estimate) about 28,000 acres as of 2:38 a.m. MDT on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, and required evacuations for the communities of Greaterville, Singing Valley, and Rain Valley. It has spread to the east 21 miles, has a perimeter of approximately 63 miles, and crossed Arizona Highway 83 in multiple places.

Sawmill fire map
Sawmill fire map, approximate perimeter 2:38 a.m. MDT April 26, 2017.

The fire is burning on lands protected by the Coronado National Forest, Bureau of Land Management and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

Sawmill Fire, April 23
Sawmill Fire, April 23, 2017. Inciweb photo.

On Tuesday the temperature in the fire area was in the low 70’s, the relative humidity was in the 30’s, and the wind was 12-18 gusting at 25-33 mph out of the west. The forecast for the fire area on Wednesday calls for conditions that could lead to significant additional fire spread toward the east and southeast, with temperatures in the mid-70’s, humidity dipping into the single digits, and winds out of the northwest at 10-20 mph gusting to 29.

Tuesday evening Jeff Andrews’ Type 2 Incident Management Team assumed command. Due to the increasing complexity, management will transition to a Type 1 Team on Thursday, April 27.

Sawmill Fire
Sawmill Fire. Photo by Arizona Dept. of Corrections’ Florence Inmate Crew.

A full suppression strategy is being employed to protect nearby values at risk including homes, ranches and outbuildings, communications facilities, power lines, and the Arizona National Scenic Trail.

Sawmill Fire
Sawmill Fire, early in the morning on April 24, 2017. Photo by Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

8 thoughts on “Sawmill Fire causes evacuations east of Green Valley, AZ”

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  2. I have been on several early fires in that area in the mid ’90’s. All had wind events and all really ran fast. In some cases very little smoke. BUT this is another event that will take time and a lot of hard work to contain. Maybe this is a sign of what Arizona is in for this year?

  3. From Tony G. in Az.. just saw what I think is an erroneous report by azcentral stating that the GST was here in az. Far as I recall they didn’t get an EU contract, and unless an emergency CWN has been issued,944 sits. So far, we have 05,06.14,162,164, and 911. The VLAT arr at IWA yesterday, and went into the rotation this afternoon. Several Helos there, but not certain which ones other than our Payson Helitack with 0TA. Another type 3 working the Cactus fire as replacement. Have a feeling that the GST folks will be on the net when possible,doing PR and seeking work.

      1. Tnx. Am I still correct that they don’t have any contracts?? Believe the story was more”hey look at us” “here we are” PR thing. As a former FF view the thing as an overpriced oddball that drops from too-high an alt to be effective. Fleet of rblt Hercs is the better choice-not more ‘passenger jets” . The MD87s again?? Tempting fate.

        1. No contracts that I am aware of. They are looking toward the new CWN and EU contracts that are supposed to be advertised sometime later this year.

    1. 3 Astars including the Tucson Short Haul capable, 1 Huey (The Coronado EU) and the EU type 1 Chinook. 2 leads, 2 Air Attacks, and yes 6 tankers plus 911, with one of the 6 usually on day off on a rotating basis.


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