3 arrested after target shooting starts wildfire in Farmington foothills, officials say
Mike Terry, Deseret News
FARMINGTON — Two men and a woman who police say were shooting assault rifles and other weapons in the foothills above Farmington have been arrested and will be charged in connection with a 40-acre wildfire that started Wednesday evening.
The fire started near the firebreak road in the area of Rudd Canyon, which is south of Farmington Canyon, said Sgt. Susan Poulsen of the Davis County Sheriff's Office. The three initially tried to put the fire out, but retreated when they realized their efforts failed, Poulsen said. They then called 911 and stayed in the area to cooperate with officials. Others in the area also reported the fire to 911, she added.
Four weapons — assault weapons and other long guns — were confiscated, and the three individuals, who are in their 20s, will be charged with reckless burning and shooting in an illegal area, Poulsen said.
Wildland fire officials from several agencies responded to the blaze around 6:20 p.m., which was dubbed the "Rudd Canyon Fire." While a helicopter dropped water in the steep terrain, firefighters from several local units, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, fought the fire on the ground.
Poulsen said the fire had burned around 40 to 50 acres, and while it was not yet contained, it is not out of control, she said. The blaze has not gotten within 1,000 feet of homes in the area, she added, but instead headed up the mountainside.
One firefighter was treated for minor heat exhaustion. A hiker who was on the mountain above the blaze when it started felt in danger and had to take another route out of the area, Poulsen said.
Even though the suspects cooperated with officials, Poulsen said, "They did do something that was reckless ... and it's putting people in danger fighting the fire. They need to be accountable for what they have done up there."
The suspects were shooting at some kind of an exploding target, law enforcement officials say. Witnesses told police they heard a loud boom and saw the fire start. But investigators believe it was the firing of the weapons, not the exploding targets, that caused the blaze.
The individuals arrested were shooting about 200 feet below the legal altitude for discharging a firearm in the national forest, said Kathy Jo Pollock, a spokeswoman for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Crews had started to build a line around the fire and were focusing on putting out hot spots, Pollock added, but fire officials are concerned that down-canyon winds could fan the flames later in the evening.
Poulsen said people need to be extremely cautious because of the heavy undergrowth after a wet spring this year. She advised people starting campfires to have either water or shovels, or both, on hand.
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