Fire danger high; target shooters warned to be careful

Published: Wednesday, March 14 2012 5:54 p.m. MDT

Target shooters have sparked three fires in four days in the foothills west of Utah Lake. At the base of the biggest wildfire, near Saratoga Springs on March 12, 2012, remnants of clay pigeons set out for target practice can be found. There are also remnants of a ricochet from a bullet that set off quite a spark.

Jared Hargrave, Deseret News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Firefighters extinguished three wildfires in four days in the past week on the west side of Utah Lake — all of them started by gunfire.  

“If things don’t change, as far as our precipitation and expected rain, we could be in for a real rough wildfire season,” said Jason Curry with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

The foothills west of the lake have been popular for target and clay pigeon shooting for years. Curry said hundreds of target shooters visit the area daily. "We could have anywhere from 100 to 200 cars in any given time," he said.

Target shooters sparked fires Friday, Saturday and Monday. One scorched 23 acres before fire crews put it out. At the base of that 23-acre fire, remnants of clay pigeons were visible. Fortunately, the people who started the fire stuck around and took responsibility.

Rules are posted, but it's up to the target shooters to reduce the risk. When Pat Buchanan and Blake Orullian shoot clay pigeons in the area, they say they're careful not to shoot at dry brush and bare rocks where a spark may start a fire, and they think about wildfire containment.

We're "making sure that (the possibility of starting a wildfire) can be minimized, for safety purposes. Not only that, (but that) it can be put out and extinguished immediately," Buchanan said.

"I don't shoot in brush. I shoot in mounds of dirt," target shooter Alex Malone said.

Curry recommends shooters choose a backstop well and avoid shooting into an area that’s filled with rocks, boulders and vegetation. He also recommends keeping a shovel on hand and extra water to extinguish a fire.

"People just need to be aware that fire is a possibility," Curry said.

He said exploding targets, targets that fragment like glass, or metallic targets are not allowed, but clay pigeons are OK. He also said people should avoid target practice on hot, dry and windy days.

Right now, there's no discussion about restricting shooting in that area.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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