Wildfire prompts concern over firearms

Jun 3 2012 - 9:35pm

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A 1,680-acre wildfire sparked by target shooting west of Utah Lake is prompting concern over firearm activity among state and federal officials.

Wildfires caused by firearms have become more widespread over the last decade, said Teresa Rigby, a fire prevention specialist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

She said that various local and federal land management agencies are considering target shooting restrictions in an effort to lower the wildfire risk.

Rigby said it's important that target shooters exercise caution even without the restrictions. She urged them to go to shooting ranges or other safe locations instead of areas with a high wildfire risk.

"Just because it's legal in the state doesn't mean it won't start a wildfire," Rigby said. "There are a lot of places in the desert that are popular for target shooting that are hotbeds for wildfire."

Firefighters on Saturday fully contained the AR Wildfire, which started Thursday around Lake Mountain, south of Saratoga Springs. The wind-whipped fire burned grass, brush and pinion-

juniper woodlands. No injuries or property damage were reported.

Officials said it was the third fire in two days in the area, all started by target shooting. The other blazes were much smaller.

The rise in wildfires caused by target shooting is a result of shooters using ammunition with steel jackets and cores, as opposed to those made of lead, Rigby said.

The risk of wildfires this year is higher than normal because of tinder-dry conditions created by a dry winter.

"Normally in May, we don't experience as many wildfires or as large wildfires that we've seen this year," Rigby said.

Officials also urged the public to use caution with vehicles and fireworks, saying they also can start wildfires.

"We know that fireworks are a popular way to celebrate holidays, but we stress they need to be used carefully," said Jason Asay, spokesman for the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

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