BLM Releases Tips For Target Shooting This Fire Season - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

BLM Releases Tips For Target Shooting This Fire Season

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It didn't take long for last year's number one fire threat to strike again in 2018.

The nearly 3,500 acre Chaves Fire is the latest reminder of why fire safety precautions are always a must. The fire is the result of target shooters taking aim on BLM property east of Dayton. The ammo may have hit its mark, but the spark did not.

"We would expect as it gets drier and the fuels become more receptive, to see more of these incidents,” said Ryan Elliott. Lead Fire Investigator assigned to BLM’s Carson City District.

So then how do we put an end to these human-caused flames?

Elliott says shooters need to find a better way to not only know their target, but to know what's behind it.

“They're using a backstop, that's safe,” said Elliott. “The problem is they're not taking into consideration the fuels with the backstop."

However, the risks don't stop at the dry vegetation. Various agencies in the area want target shooters to know that really any type of ammunition can start a fire under the right conditions.

"It's like pounding on something, it gets hot so there's deformation that goes on that generates enough heat to cause a fire,” said Casey Jones, Fire Technician with the U.S. Forest Service.

The same can even be said for lead bullets. Elliott says there's a common misconception that if rounds aren't filled with steel or copper, they won't cause an ignition.

“I've been told it'd be a one in a million shot,” said Elliott. "Well if you have 100 shooters shooting 150 rounds per shooting session, that's 15,000 rounds per day, it takes about 60 days to get to a million rounds."

And it's not just the fire agencies who're reminding target shooters of these best practices. The owner of RAC Guns & Ammo believes we can prevent many wildfires by simply using county gun ranges.

“It's all clear, it's safe, things are there to be shot and you also know what's beyond your target,” said Rick Collup.

Here are some tips to ensure shooters protect public lands and prevent wildfires from starting:

•      Place your targets on dirt or gravel areas clear of vegetation and avoid shooting into rocky areas. Placing a target in dry grass increases the risk of fire.
•         Shoot at quality steel targets designed to minimize risks to both the shooter and the environment. For steel targets to be functional and safe, they should be made of high quality through hardened steel that has a Brinell hardness number of at least 500. Refrain from shooting steel targets during hot, dry and windy conditions.
•         Bring a shovel. Use the shovel to dig a trench around your targets before shooting to ensure that any fire caused by sparks can be easily contained.
•         Don’t shoot at exploding targets, you can increase your chances of starting a fire.
•         Don’t use incendiary or tracer ammo – Incendiary and tracer ammo are always prohibited on public lands.
•         Be aware that all types of ammunition can start fires under the right conditions especially steel core ammunition. To avoid a chance of sparking, do not use steel core ammunition and always avoid shooting in rocky areas. A study of ignition by rifle bullets was published by the USDA Rocky Mountain Research Station. The paper can be found at https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_rp104.pdf 
•         Bring a container of water. This may seem obvious, but shooters often fail to bring enough water to put a fire out. A five gallon bucket of water readily available while shooting could prevent a disaster if a fire does start.
•         Don’t shoot trash. Trash like old couches and TVs can often be found illegally dumped on public land but can be dangerous fire hazards when shot.
•         Be cautious with smoking. Even if you’re following all safety precautions in regard to shooting, you can still easily start a wildfire by smoking. If you’re shooting in a dry location, make sure that all cigarette butts are properly extinguished or avoid smoking at all.
•         Park your vehicle away from dry grass. Wildfires have been started by vehicles parked in dry grass. While it may not seem like a hazard, the hot undercarriage of a car or truck can easily create enough heat to ignite the grass.
•         Please shoot responsibly, clean up after shooting and “Tread Lightly” on public land.

The BLM of Carson City said that any target shooters that start a fire will be held liable for paying suppression costs and anyone who causes and leaves the scene without reporting it could be charged criminally.

(BLM, Carson City District, contributed to this report).

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