LIBERTY — Firefighters battled a small blaze on U.S. Forest Service land in the Ogden Valley on Friday afternoon, declaring it “all-but-contained” that evening.
Weber Fire District crews were initially dispatched to the area at 1:31 p.m. Friday and were quickly joined by firefighters from North View Fire District as well as the Forest Service, which took command of the fire. A helicopter equipped with a water bucket was also utilized.
The fire started at one of the pullouts on the Avon-Liberty Road, where people often go for target shooting, according to Barry Locke, assistant fire warden with Weber Fire District.
“That’s what the cause of the fire was, target shooting,” Locke said. “The start of the fire was actually witnessed by Forest Service personnel.”
Locke said the Forest Service employee was crossing over the divide when he saw a man target shooting and stopped to speak with him.
“The man put his gun down and turned to talk to him,” Locke said. “When he looked back over his shoulder, the fire had started.”
Kathy Jo Pollock, public information officer with the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said the fire got into the oak and maple brush in the area. She confirmed the fire was started by a shooter.
“We can say it was human caused, and we can say that it was target shooting,” she said.
Pollock said the fire was pretty much contained by early Friday evening, and they expected full containment later that night.
Locke described the fire as “small.” He estimated it at just over a half-acre.
“Fortunately, there was a road above where it started, so it got to the edge of the road and pretty much stopped,” he said.
Crews were also able to position firefighting equipment on that road above the fire and laid down hose throughout the area.
“I’ll bet we had 2,000 feet of hose stretched around that mountain,” Locke said. “We just worked the edges of the fire until we’d controlled and surrounded it.”
A Bureau of Land Management Helitack crew dropped buckets of water scooped from a nearby pond.
“We had nine bucket drops on that fire — at 100 gallons a bucket, that’s a lot of water,” Locke said.
About 30 firefighters fought the blaze, using an assortment of a half-dozen fire engines and brush trucks, according to Locke.
“It was pretty textbook when everything started getting into play — everybody knew their job and did it well,” Locke said. “We had the personnel here pretty rapidly, and the helicopter was dispatched quickly. If not for them, it could have gone much worse.”
Pollock said crews would keep tabs on the area throughout Saturday to make sure there were no hot spots or flareups.
Pollock said she didn’t know if any charges would be brought but that “anytime somebody causes a wildland fire, they could have to pay the costs of suppressing the fire.”
Pollock implores those out target shooting to take the necessary precautions — make sure the area is clear of vegetation, don’t shoot at rocks, make sure to have a backstop, and no exploding targets or tracer rounds.
“They should also have a fire extinguisher, shovel or water, just in case,” she said.