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Exploding targets blamed for another wildfire

SHOOTING — There's a reason it's illegal.

Exploding target ignited August wildfire in Montana
A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks official said the August wildfire in the Sapphire Mountains was ignited by a target shooter illegally using an explosive target at a state wildlife management area, and the agency is seeking information on the individual responsible who started the fire that cost $94,000 to extinguish.

—Ravalli Republic

Exploding targets banned on national forests

SHOOTING — Exploding targets are officially a no-no on national forests throughout the West.

Citing public safety concerns and the potential for igniting wildfires, Northern Region Forester Faye Krueger has signed a regional closure order prohibiting unpermitted explosives on national forest system lands, specifically to prohibit the use of exploding targets.

This closure for national forests in Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas follows last year's closures by some other Western national forest and the entire the Pacific Northwest Region.

“National Forest System Lands are ideal for a wide range of recreational activities that include hunting and sport shooting,” Krueger said. “We must also ensure that recreational users are safe in their pursuits, and that we eliminate the risk of wildfires from explosive targets.”

In the past two years, exploding targets have been identified as the cause of at least 16 wildfires in the western states, costing taxpayers more than $33 million in fire suppression costs. The closure order includes all 12 national forests and grasslands in the Northern Region, covering northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and remaining portions of South Dakota not already under a closure order by the Rocky Mountain region.

Read on for more from the Forest Service:

Forest Service bans exploding targets in Idaho, Montana, Dakotas, due to wildfire risk

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets in northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and portions of South Dakota due to wildfire and public safety concerns. Northern Region Forester Faye Krueger announced Tuesday the regional closure that immediately prohibits exploding targets on national forest lands. Some target shooters use the exploding targets because they contain chemical components that mix when struck by a bullet and create a fireball. The Forest Service says exploding targets the past two years have started at least 16 wildfires in western states that cost $33 million to fight. The order includes all 12 national forests and grasslands in the Northern Region. The fine for using the banned targets is up to $5,000 and six months in jail.

Feds bill shooter $168K for fire ignited by exploding target

PUBLIC LANDS — The federal government said today it is collecting $168,500 to cover fire suppression costs after an Illinois man ignited a 440-acre blaze in central Idaho in 2012 while shooting at an exploding target.

According to a story by the Associated Press, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the agreement after Jeffrey Kerner was target shooting on Aug. 18, 2012 on private land near Salmon in Lemhi County. As temperatures hit 95 degrees, prosecutors say Kerner’s target blew apart and ignited the blaze that later spread to adjacent federal land.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Howe in Boise said the settlement in the Idaho case was reached after negotiations with an insurance adjustment company representing Kerner.

Though the fire was relatively small at less than a square mile and was contained within 48 hours, costs quickly escalated as federal firefighters arrived in force to keep the flames from consuming at least two nearby homes.

Howe said the incident — during high summer, when temperatures were climbing — underscores the danger of shooting at exploding targets that produce a large cloud of smoke when struck by a bullet. Federal and state agencies across the West have enacted a patchwork of regulations designed to limit or ban exploding targets on public land, though there’s little uniformity.

Read on for more more of the story from the AP.

More national forests ban exploding shooting targets

PUBLIC LANDS –  Led by a ban on exploding targets issued by Northwest national forests on July 9 and bans by other public land managers, a similar ban was issued on Monday by Rocky Mountain Region Forest Service officials who cited the products enjoyed by target shooters as a major cause of wildfires.

Shooters who use exploding targets have ignited 16 wildfires since last year, including seven in the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region that includes Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, the officials said.

The ban extends to all national forests and grasslands in those five states.

The public should understand that exploding targets can cause fires, said John Walsh, the U.S. Attorney for Colorado, said in this story by the Durango  Herald.

Exploding targets are legal to buy. They are made in a small canister by mixing dry chemicals that become volatile in each other’s presence. When struck by a bullet, they emit a brief flame and puff of smoke.

  • One manufacturer says its product is different and should not have been included in the bans.
  • But the tests shown in the video with the Durango Herald story prove that some exploding targets cause fires.

On a national level, the U.S. Forest Service says this:

“Exploding targets pose a very real safety threat to visitors and our employees” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “In the past year alone, at least 16 wildfires on national forests have been associated with exploding targets, causing millions of dollars in suppression costs while threatening the safety and well-being of surrounding communities.”