Investigator: Tuesday fire starts appear unrelated
Know the weather conditions and fire restrictions before heading to public land to target shoot. Also, refrain from shooting during hot, dry, and windy conditions, especially on Red Flag Warning days.
While shooting, have a five gallon bucket of water or 2.5 pound fully charged fire extinguisher readily available to put out a fire if one starts.
Bring a shovel. Use the shovel to dig a trench around targets before shooting to ensure that any fire caused by sparks can be easily contained.
Place targets on dirt or gravel areas clear of vegetation. Placing a target in dry grass increases the risk of fire. Signs, kiosks, buildings, and plants are never targets.
Only shoot into a solid backstop.
Do not shoot trash and remove spent cartridges. Trash like old couches and TVs can often be found illegally dumped on public lands, but can be dangerous fire hazards when shot.
Be aware that ammunition can start fires under the right conditions. To avoid a chance of sparking, do not use solid copper, steel-core, or steel-jacketed ammunition and always avoid shooting in dry fuels or rocky areas.
Fireworks, exploding targets, and incendiary or tracer ammo are PROHIBITED on public lands.
Park your vehicle away from 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.
While the causes of three fires that started within 90 minutes of one another on Tuesday are under investigation, they don’t appear to be related.
East Fork Fire Marshal Steve Eisele asked that anyone who witnessed the early moments of the fires at Topaz Lake and Ray May Way contact him at 782-9040.
The Nevada Fire Marshal is investigating the 8-acre Topaz Lake fire, Eisele said.
The blaze was reported at 3:24 p.m. and threatened 30-40 homes in Topaz just south of the Topaz Lodge, closing Highway 395 for more than two hours. An outbuilding roof was the only structure damaged in the fire.
Winds gusted to up to 20 mph driving the fire through the neighborhood. At its height, 17 fire engines, five water tenders, two handcrews and a helicopter responded to the blaze, East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said.
“We don’t feel its suspicious at this time due to the circumstances,” Eisele said of the cause. “But we’re following up on all leads.”
He said the 4-acre Ray May Way fire was definitely caused by human activity, but that BLM investigators haven’t come up with a definitive source.
The fire was reported at 2:28 p.m. about a quarter mile off Highway 395, according to the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch. East Fork firefighters responded to the blaze, but were relieved by Bureau of Land Management crews.
Eisele said the fire near Woodfords may have been started by target shooters.
The 67-acre Payne Fire was reported near Woodfords at 2:03 p.m. On Wednesday, Alpine County Sheriff Rick Stephens and Fire Chief Terry Hughes issued an order prohibiting shooting from Monitor Pass to Woodfords.
Eisele asked that people watch out for ignition sources in the wildland, whether driving, target shooting or other activities in the dry grass.
On Thursday, U.S. Forest Service officials asked that target shooters be careful on public lands.
“We all have a role to play in preventing human-caused wildfires, which annually threaten human life, private property, and public land resources,” said Russ Bird, Forest Fire Management Officer. “It would also help public land managers if target shooters warn others of potential dangers and behaviors for starting wildfires.”