- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

GREEN VALLEY, Ariz. (AP) - The Latest on a southern Arizona wildfire (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is requesting help from the Air National Guard as crews continue to battle a large wildfire in southern Arizona.

Ducey said Thursday that he will request an unmanned aerial drone to help first responders in the firefighting effort.

It’s seen as a potential cost-saving plan because the drone would help the incident management team allocate resources more efficiently.

The wildfire has burned 63 square miles (163.2 sq. kilometers) of grass, brush and trees in southern Arizona and is 20 percent contained.

The fire started Sunday about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) southeast of Green Valley and then burned its way eastward through the Santa Rita Mountains.

4:45 p.m.

An off-duty Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent is being investigated for possibly starting a wildfire in southern Arizona while target shooting last weekend.

Border Patrol officials announced Thursday evening that the agent “was involved in recreational shooting and immediately reported the fire after it begun.”

They didn’t identity the agent and referred all questions about the investigation to the state fire agency.

The wildfire has burned 63 square miles (163.2 sq. kilometers) of grass, brush and trees in southern Arizona and is only about 7 percent contained.

The fire started Sunday about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) southeast of Green Valley and then burned its way eastward through the Santa Rita Mountains.

2:45 p.m.

High winds have forced officials to ground aircraft battling a large wildfire burning southeast of Tucson.

Authorities say a Red Flag Warning is in effect until 7 p.m. Thursday and there’s no planned time for the flights to resume.

The wildfire has burned 63 square miles (163.2 sq. kilometers) of grass, brush and trees in southern Arizona.

The fire started Sunday about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) southeast of Green Valley.

It then burned its way eastward through the Santa Rita Mountains and across a wide valley.

Meanwhile Thursday, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced State Route 83 has been reopened.

It had been closed since Monday afternoon due to the fire, which authorities believe is human-caused.

10:15 a.m.

A top-level fire management team is now in charge of the fight against a wildfire that has burned 63 square miles (163.2 sq. kilometers) of grass, brush and trees in southern Arizona.

The Type 1 incident management team took over Thursday from a Type 2 team that previously replaced a Type 3 team. Officials say the changeovers are due to the fire’s complexity and the higher-level teams’ capabilities and experience.

The fire started Sunday about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) southeast of Green Valley. It then burned its way eastward through the Santa Rita Mountains and across a wide valley.

A fire map released Thursday shows beginning to enter western parts of the Whetstone Mountains.

No injury or structure damage has been reported but pre-evacuation notices have been issued for hundreds of homes in the area.

Some residents evacuated since the fire started have already been allowed to return home because those dwellings no longer are at risk.

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8:05 a.m.

Forecasters are warning of gusty winds and other weather conditions that could spread wildfires in much of Arizona, including the area southeast of Tucson where a blaze has burned 63 square miles (163.2 sq. kilometers) of grass, brush and trees.

So-called “red flag” warnings are being issued for Thursday afternoon and early evening for southeastern Arizona and for Friday in a broader area that also includes central and southwestern deserts.

A fire weather message issued by the National Weather Service says “any fires that develop or are ongoing will likely spread rapidly.”

Crews battling the fire southeast of Tucson got a break Wednesday as winds lessoned after the fire crossed the Santa Rita Mountains after starting Sunday about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) southeast of Green Valley.

___

7:55 a.m.

Crews have cleared areas or other barriers around 20 percent of the perimeter of a wildfire that has burned 63 square miles (163.17 sq. kilometers) in southern Arizona.

That overnight containment figure is up from 7 percent Wednesday.

Approximately 600 personnel are assigned to the fire, a near-doubling from Wednesday when calmer winds provided temporary relief. However, stronger winds are forecast for Thursday.

No injury or structure damage has been reported from the fire but hundreds of homes remain under pre-evacuation notices.

The fire started Sunday about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) southeast of Green Valley, then swept across the Santa Rita Mountains.

A high-level management team assumes command Thursday, an upgrade because of the fire’s complexity

Officials say mapping doubled the announced size of the fire Wednesday.

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