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Officials: 20 Recent Wildfires Started Accidentally by Recreational Shooters

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June 29, 2012

Officials: 20 Recent Wildfires Started Accidentally by Recreational Shooters

Wildfires and gun control may not seem to have any obvious connection, but with a historic fire season already raging, officials say many of the wildfires, specifically in Utah, have been accidentally set by recreational shooters. This, predictably, has set off a (pardon the pun) raging firestorm of controversy over when state officials can and cannot limit recreational shooting on public land.

From this story in the LA Times:
"Twenty. That’s the number of wildfires officials believe recreational shooters have caused so far this summer in Utah. One of those wildfires — the Dump fire 40 miles south of Salt Lake City — prompted 2,300 evacuation notices and has led to a 6,023-acre blaze.

It has also led to something of a constitutional controversy in Utah, where state law prevents state agencies from enacting any rule to restrict recreational shooting without the Legislature’s permission — even in areas at high risk for fires, even during a drought. Which might explain why the Utah governor is begging residents to be more careful. “Now is not a good time to take your gun outside and start shooting in cheat grass that’s tinder dry,” Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday..."

Thoughts? Reaction? Is it a case of "we need to self-police and be more careful" or do the fires seem like a convenient way to take a few (again, pardon the pun) easy shots at gun owners?

Comments (18)

Top Rated
All Comments
from NorCal Cazadora wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Is is it anti-smoking to ask smokers not to toss lit butts out of their car windows in high fire danger areas? No, so it probably isn't anti-gun to ask shooters to be careful in such areas too.

But does the L.A. Times jump at any chance to make hunters and shooters look bad? Hell yes.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from s-kfry wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

The rumor is that the Springer Fire (west of the Waldo Canyon Fire here in Colorado Springs) was started by someone shooting a propane canister.

People, please don't be stupid! Beyond the obvious risk of burning down the forest and a ton of structures (not to mention the risk of killing a whole bunch of people), this just makes us look like absolute idiots.

If it's hot and dry and you must shoot, take it to a proper range with safety precautions in place.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Hi...

I'd like somebody to tell me LOGICALLY how a bullet could start a fire unless it was fired into dry tinder on the ground, or incindiary (tracer) bullets were being used. Or use of the "exploding" target.

More than likely, careless campers, smokers or lightning caused these disasterous wildfires.

Lead or copper-clad (FMJ) bullets can bounce off of any metal "target" and will not spark.

I think that some of those buffoons in charge (Utah's Governor?) are just hard pressed to find or admit to actual causes of there fires. In other words...clueless...!!

So, let's blame the shooters, eh?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Quote from the LA Times story:

"Clark Aposhian, the head of Utah's Shooting Sports Council, said he thought officials should pump the brakes until they have more information.

"I need to know more definitively what is to blame for these fires," he told the Daily Herald, adding that he didn’t condone improper shooting; those caught starting a fire can be charged with recklessness and sued for damages."

How exactly do you determine that shooting guns started a fire?

Central Kansas, near Hutchinson, had a bad fire a number of years ago, and they traced the burn back to an intersect on the highway. The conclusion was that someone probably tossed a cigarette out of their car window when they stopped. How do you determine that a bullet started a wild fire?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hhack wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I live a mile from where this fire started and it was caused by shooters. The shooters who started the fire are the ones who reported the fire to authorities. This area is very rocky and the problem is that alot of the weekend rambo type shooters shoot cheap russian made ammo. This ammo uses a steal core instead of lead. When shooting multiple rounds (sks & ars)at whatever trash was brought out to destroy, the bullets strike rocks and the steel cores create the sparks. I have shot thousands of rounds in this same area and have never started a fire with lead core bullets.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I smoked for years. I've tried countless times to start a fire with a lit cigarette. A task I never accomplished. I'm not saying it can't happen, just saying it ain't as simple as it sounds.
The temperature at which tobacco smolders is lower than what's required for flame.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Recreational shooters starting fires? Stranger things have happened. Twenty fires!? Highly improbable!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from HogBlog wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Yes, steel core bullets can spark and potentially start a fire. That much is plausible. Folks shooting propane cylinders, tannerite, or other exploding/flammable targets also pose a very real fire risk... especially in the dry western environment.

If people can't police their own behavior, the government will do it for them. That much is true also. Inconsiderate idiots in every walk of life are costing us personal freedoms, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some legislation coming down soon to clamp down on public land target shooting during fire season. Honestly, maybe it's necessary. But it's still a sad, sad statement.

FirstBubba, I don't know where you live, but take a drive along almost any CA interstate during the summer and you'll see dozens of examples of how a cigarette butt can start a fire. It happens DAILY out here during the summer, and in other parts of the west as well. The ground becomes a big tinderbox, to the point where even a dragging tow chain can spark a fire. Not throwing cigarettes out the window should be a no-brainer (if only for the littering aspect), but I watch brainless jerkwads do it all the time. But this begins a different topic...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from firedawg wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

As a fireman, I have seen many brush fires started on the side of the road, and I don't know of a single one that I would contribute to a cigarette. They are almost always started when a vehicle is dragging something metal, like a chain, or from a riding on a flat tire. Many fires are also started from catalytic converters on vehicles that have pulled off on the side of the road. Just my 2 cents.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

HogBlog
I'm not arguing a live butt "can't" start a fire, I'm saying I've tried starting fires with one without success.
firedawg is more realistically stating my point.
Heck, I've even seen live butts extinguished in gasoline. Didn't say it was "smart"! LOL!
I just think the "recreational" shooter claim is a bit exaggerated, for obvious reasons!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I'm not saying that any of the fires were not cause by recreational shooters, but please...let's have some evidence. Yes, shooters do need to be careful shooting in brush fire season. I am however somewhat skeptical about the propane tank story.
There was an episode on Mythbusters whereby they attempted to duplicate a scene in a movie where the star shot a propane cylinder and blew it up. The Mythbuster cast shot the large propane cylinder with everything from a .22 to a 30-06, and even tried tracers and could not get the tank to blow. They did get some fire (which admittedly could start a brush fire) but no fireball without the use of explosives.
It's easy to cast blame by the simple explanation of " well there were no storms and lightning, and no other people around but we did hear some shooters, so it must have been them, yuk, yuk!"
As far a Russian ammo goes, alot of the early stuff had a steel core, but most of the newer stuff is lead core.
The 5.56mm
M855 has a steel penetrator point, and some of that's American made.
I do agree that deliberate care must be taken to insure that no bad events can be attributed to target shooting.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from TwTrapper wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Fires start when an excess of burnable under brush is left for years.
A good controlled burn as done in many states puts an end to this problem.
Not only does it take care of the problem of large forest fires, it also rejuvenates the underbrush into palatable forage for wildlife, it attracts deer and other animals.
This past spring in Missouri I performed (I am licensed by state and USDA) over 1500 acres of controlled burns broken into smaller sections the largest being over 600 acres, with under 1 acre of spot out.
It always is fun to watch the deer run through the burn to were it has burned off and start eating the ash and burned plant life, when I first saw this years ago I had to find out why they did this. So, I tasted some of it, the burned plant life taste salty. After the burn passes through an area the minerals are more absorbable for wildlife and plants, just like putting out mineral blocks and fertilizer.
Any state that does not allow and perform controlled burns should be held responsible for any fire that starts. History shows us that the entire country used to burn once every 3-5 years, this was nature and Indians taking care of the land.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I'd want to see actual numbers. The Weber fire in CO everyone jumped on the "because of shooters" bandwagon until the sheriff found the kid that started it. For sure there are ways shooting can start fires, but after one last year was suspected because of shooters all of a sudden there are a rash of unconfirmed shooter caused fires.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

@firstBubba , What are you doing trying to set forest fires? it is very possible to start fires with lit cigs. Ive seen it personally. Driving through a dry hay field to check a gas well the knucklehead working with me through a cig out the window. We were over the hill at the gas well and started to see smoke. Sure enough he had set the field on fire and luckily we got to it in time and had fire extinguishers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I would bet that Pyromaniacs are responsible for a few of the 20 fires.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Larry Boder wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Yes, as usual rambo types going wild in the wild. I've been to sites like this myself, shellcases and litter everywhere; it's really sad. Even if you say something you should be cautious. Best way, camera turn them in here in VA - can go as high as 2500 first offense. NOT trying to sound like a hard... but the other day talked with son-in-law about NRA classes with grandsons would really like to pass it on as my dad and family did. But if we don't police ourselves and deal with those who don't care there may not be anywhere afield for a little safe shooting. MAYBE US should have rules and restrictions as in Germany for the hunters; i.e. DUI loose your license and maybe even your guns.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckstopper wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Can't say I know a whole lot about hunting in Germany but if its anything like the rest of the continent then only the wealthy and elite get to hunt. I think we in the US are regulated enough. It is up to each state to set regulations which are unique to that eco-system, habitat and yes, TRADITIONS. Thats as it should be. The USFWS will set duck regulations due to its migratory nature, even they will give some leeway to the states as far as season dates. Education is the key to self enforcing good hunting and shooting practices, I applaud you taking your grandchildren to NRA classes. Too bad the public education system will go out of its way to downplay the role that hunting and fishing have had in conservation. More schools should offer hunter ed classes as an elective.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from missedit wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Gun safety, common sense, for all during drought please.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from NorCal Cazadora wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Is is it anti-smoking to ask smokers not to toss lit butts out of their car windows in high fire danger areas? No, so it probably isn't anti-gun to ask shooters to be careful in such areas too.

But does the L.A. Times jump at any chance to make hunters and shooters look bad? Hell yes.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from s-kfry wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

The rumor is that the Springer Fire (west of the Waldo Canyon Fire here in Colorado Springs) was started by someone shooting a propane canister.

People, please don't be stupid! Beyond the obvious risk of burning down the forest and a ton of structures (not to mention the risk of killing a whole bunch of people), this just makes us look like absolute idiots.

If it's hot and dry and you must shoot, take it to a proper range with safety precautions in place.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from TwTrapper wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Fires start when an excess of burnable under brush is left for years.
A good controlled burn as done in many states puts an end to this problem.
Not only does it take care of the problem of large forest fires, it also rejuvenates the underbrush into palatable forage for wildlife, it attracts deer and other animals.
This past spring in Missouri I performed (I am licensed by state and USDA) over 1500 acres of controlled burns broken into smaller sections the largest being over 600 acres, with under 1 acre of spot out.
It always is fun to watch the deer run through the burn to were it has burned off and start eating the ash and burned plant life, when I first saw this years ago I had to find out why they did this. So, I tasted some of it, the burned plant life taste salty. After the burn passes through an area the minerals are more absorbable for wildlife and plants, just like putting out mineral blocks and fertilizer.
Any state that does not allow and perform controlled burns should be held responsible for any fire that starts. History shows us that the entire country used to burn once every 3-5 years, this was nature and Indians taking care of the land.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Hi...

I'd like somebody to tell me LOGICALLY how a bullet could start a fire unless it was fired into dry tinder on the ground, or incindiary (tracer) bullets were being used. Or use of the "exploding" target.

More than likely, careless campers, smokers or lightning caused these disasterous wildfires.

Lead or copper-clad (FMJ) bullets can bounce off of any metal "target" and will not spark.

I think that some of those buffoons in charge (Utah's Governor?) are just hard pressed to find or admit to actual causes of there fires. In other words...clueless...!!

So, let's blame the shooters, eh?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Recreational shooters starting fires? Stranger things have happened. Twenty fires!? Highly improbable!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I smoked for years. I've tried countless times to start a fire with a lit cigarette. A task I never accomplished. I'm not saying it can't happen, just saying it ain't as simple as it sounds.
The temperature at which tobacco smolders is lower than what's required for flame.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from firedawg wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

As a fireman, I have seen many brush fires started on the side of the road, and I don't know of a single one that I would contribute to a cigarette. They are almost always started when a vehicle is dragging something metal, like a chain, or from a riding on a flat tire. Many fires are also started from catalytic converters on vehicles that have pulled off on the side of the road. Just my 2 cents.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

HogBlog
I'm not arguing a live butt "can't" start a fire, I'm saying I've tried starting fires with one without success.
firedawg is more realistically stating my point.
Heck, I've even seen live butts extinguished in gasoline. Didn't say it was "smart"! LOL!
I just think the "recreational" shooter claim is a bit exaggerated, for obvious reasons!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I'm not saying that any of the fires were not cause by recreational shooters, but please...let's have some evidence. Yes, shooters do need to be careful shooting in brush fire season. I am however somewhat skeptical about the propane tank story.
There was an episode on Mythbusters whereby they attempted to duplicate a scene in a movie where the star shot a propane cylinder and blew it up. The Mythbuster cast shot the large propane cylinder with everything from a .22 to a 30-06, and even tried tracers and could not get the tank to blow. They did get some fire (which admittedly could start a brush fire) but no fireball without the use of explosives.
It's easy to cast blame by the simple explanation of " well there were no storms and lightning, and no other people around but we did hear some shooters, so it must have been them, yuk, yuk!"
As far a Russian ammo goes, alot of the early stuff had a steel core, but most of the newer stuff is lead core.
The 5.56mm
M855 has a steel penetrator point, and some of that's American made.
I do agree that deliberate care must be taken to insure that no bad events can be attributed to target shooting.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Quote from the LA Times story:

"Clark Aposhian, the head of Utah's Shooting Sports Council, said he thought officials should pump the brakes until they have more information.

"I need to know more definitively what is to blame for these fires," he told the Daily Herald, adding that he didn’t condone improper shooting; those caught starting a fire can be charged with recklessness and sued for damages."

How exactly do you determine that shooting guns started a fire?

Central Kansas, near Hutchinson, had a bad fire a number of years ago, and they traced the burn back to an intersect on the highway. The conclusion was that someone probably tossed a cigarette out of their car window when they stopped. How do you determine that a bullet started a wild fire?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hhack wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I live a mile from where this fire started and it was caused by shooters. The shooters who started the fire are the ones who reported the fire to authorities. This area is very rocky and the problem is that alot of the weekend rambo type shooters shoot cheap russian made ammo. This ammo uses a steal core instead of lead. When shooting multiple rounds (sks & ars)at whatever trash was brought out to destroy, the bullets strike rocks and the steel cores create the sparks. I have shot thousands of rounds in this same area and have never started a fire with lead core bullets.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from HogBlog wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Yes, steel core bullets can spark and potentially start a fire. That much is plausible. Folks shooting propane cylinders, tannerite, or other exploding/flammable targets also pose a very real fire risk... especially in the dry western environment.

If people can't police their own behavior, the government will do it for them. That much is true also. Inconsiderate idiots in every walk of life are costing us personal freedoms, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some legislation coming down soon to clamp down on public land target shooting during fire season. Honestly, maybe it's necessary. But it's still a sad, sad statement.

FirstBubba, I don't know where you live, but take a drive along almost any CA interstate during the summer and you'll see dozens of examples of how a cigarette butt can start a fire. It happens DAILY out here during the summer, and in other parts of the west as well. The ground becomes a big tinderbox, to the point where even a dragging tow chain can spark a fire. Not throwing cigarettes out the window should be a no-brainer (if only for the littering aspect), but I watch brainless jerkwads do it all the time. But this begins a different topic...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I'd want to see actual numbers. The Weber fire in CO everyone jumped on the "because of shooters" bandwagon until the sheriff found the kid that started it. For sure there are ways shooting can start fires, but after one last year was suspected because of shooters all of a sudden there are a rash of unconfirmed shooter caused fires.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

@firstBubba , What are you doing trying to set forest fires? it is very possible to start fires with lit cigs. Ive seen it personally. Driving through a dry hay field to check a gas well the knucklehead working with me through a cig out the window. We were over the hill at the gas well and started to see smoke. Sure enough he had set the field on fire and luckily we got to it in time and had fire extinguishers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I would bet that Pyromaniacs are responsible for a few of the 20 fires.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Larry Boder wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Yes, as usual rambo types going wild in the wild. I've been to sites like this myself, shellcases and litter everywhere; it's really sad. Even if you say something you should be cautious. Best way, camera turn them in here in VA - can go as high as 2500 first offense. NOT trying to sound like a hard... but the other day talked with son-in-law about NRA classes with grandsons would really like to pass it on as my dad and family did. But if we don't police ourselves and deal with those who don't care there may not be anywhere afield for a little safe shooting. MAYBE US should have rules and restrictions as in Germany for the hunters; i.e. DUI loose your license and maybe even your guns.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckstopper wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Can't say I know a whole lot about hunting in Germany but if its anything like the rest of the continent then only the wealthy and elite get to hunt. I think we in the US are regulated enough. It is up to each state to set regulations which are unique to that eco-system, habitat and yes, TRADITIONS. Thats as it should be. The USFWS will set duck regulations due to its migratory nature, even they will give some leeway to the states as far as season dates. Education is the key to self enforcing good hunting and shooting practices, I applaud you taking your grandchildren to NRA classes. Too bad the public education system will go out of its way to downplay the role that hunting and fishing have had in conservation. More schools should offer hunter ed classes as an elective.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from missedit wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Gun safety, common sense, for all during drought please.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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