Fire that orphaned mountain lion cubs was started by exploding target

mountain lion cubs fire

Sara Steele and Liz Shellenbarger dry off the mountain lion cubs found under a burning log. Photo by Cory Rennaker, Bitterroot National Forest Helitack, USFS.

Investigators have confirmed that shooters using exploding targets started the Three Mile Fire nine miles east of Florence, Montana in August. The fire burned about 50 acres before firefighters extinguished it at a cost estimated at $94,000.

During the initial attack on the fire, Bitterroot National Forest firefighters rescued a pair of mountain lion cubs. The kittens, just a few weeks old, were taking shelter under a burning log. Firefighters called in a helicopter bucket drop to cool the log, and the kittens, although wet from the 600 gallons of water, were rescued.

Mountain lion cubs

Photo by Cory Rennaker, Bitterroot National Forest Helitack, USFS.

A few weeks after being rescued, the cubs, named Lewis and Clark, were adopted by the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium, and on September 23 made an appearance on David Letterman’s show. During the first two minutes of the video below, Jack Hanna tells Dave about the blank spot in his brain, and then the cubs are brought on.

We have written about exploding targets many times before. The dangerous devices consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosive when shot by a high-velocity projectile.

Exploding targets have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years. They have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death. The Missoulian reported that two years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away.

The U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets in the Northern Region, which includes Montana. The Three Mile Fire occurred on state protected land in a Wildlife Management Area where target shooting is not permissible. The state of Montana has not taken action to specifically prohibit the use of exploding targets, although they can become illegal when fire restrictions are in place.

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USFS bans exploding targets in their Northern Region

The U.S. Forest Service has banned the use of exploding targets in their Northern Region, which includes all lands administered by the USFS in the states of Montana and North Dakota, and in parts of South Dakota and northern Idaho. The ban, signed last week, will be in effect for a year, until May 9, 2015. This is considered a stop-gap measure while a longer term prohibition is being considered that will be incorporated into Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 261.

The decision by the Northern Region is in concert with other USFS areas that have banned the dangerous devices, including national forest system lands in the states of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. 

The announcement about the ban, issued by Jonathan L. Herrick, Special Agent in Charge and Faye L. Krueger, Regional Forester, included this statement:

The purpose of the order is to enhance public safety, and to protect our natural resources and property by restricting the use of explosives and exploding targets.  The widening use of exploding targets on our National Forests and Grasslands has led to serious injuries, catastrophic wildfires, destruction of property and a significant loss and/or damage to our natural resources.  This order provides authority for FS law enforcement officials on all Forests/Grasslands in Region 1 to enforce this restriction and to enhance our ability to protect our natural resources and the people who use them.

On April 20 the Bureau of Land Management issued a ban on exploding targets on BLM lands within the state of Idaho, to be effective between May 10 and October 20, 2014.

Exploding targets have become popular in the last two years with shooters who get a thrill from seeing the explosion when their bullet hits its mark. We have documented numerous wildfires that have been started by the exploding targets. They are sometimes called “binary exploding targets”, since they are completely inert until two powders are mixed by the target shooter. After they are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

In June, 2013, a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed by an exploding target. After someone shot the device, shrapnel struck 47-year-old Jeffery Taylor in the abdomen causing his death.

We have written about exploding targets numerous times, and applaud this decision by the USFS Northern Region. Hopefully the Regional Foresters in California, and Regions 4, 8, and 9 have the courage to take the same step. (See the map below to decode the region numbers.)

USFS Region 1

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Steve and Chuck.

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Fire caused by exploding target results in $168,000 settlement

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Boise has reached a settlement agreement over a wildfire that was caused by an exploding target in Idaho. The Ten Mile fire in Lemhi County started July 18, 2012, on land owned by Jeffrey and Paula Kerner. Mr. Kerner was shooting at an exploding target on a ninety-five degree day when the target blew apart and ignited the fire which spread and threatened at least two homes and burned 440 acres of federal land.

The settlement reached with Mr. Kerner’s insurance company requires $168,596 be reimbursed to the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for their costs of suppressing the fire.

Idaho law prohibits exploding targets on public lands from May 10 to Oct.10, but Mr. Kerner was target shooting on private land.

Exploding targets have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years. They have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death.

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Forest Service bans exploding targets in Rocky Mountain Region

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that the agency has banned exploding targets on National Forest system lands in the Rocky Mountain Region. In October when we first wrote about these devices that explode when shot with a rifle, we listed 24 wildfires we found with a quick internet search that were started by shooters using the targets in 2012.

Exploding targets have become popular in the last year with shooters who get a thrill from seeing the explosion when their bullet hits its mark. The devices are sometimes called “binary exploding targets”, since they are completely inert until two powders are mixed by the target shooter. After they are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

In June a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed by an exploding target. After someone shot the device, shrapnel struck 47-year-old Jeffery Taylor in the abdomen causing his death.

The new ban affects national forest system lands in the states of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, and Kansas. Under the Order prohibiting the devices, anyone using them can face a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of not more than 6 months. The Order is effective for one year and expires August 2, 2014.

The U.S. Forest Service has previously banned exploding targets on national forests in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas according to Forest Service spokeswoman Sarah Levy.

The Bureau of Land Management bans them during certain times on their land in some states — not only the use but the possession of the devices.

“The Bureau of Land Management is working on a Fire Prevention Order that will ban exploding targets on BLM lands in Colorado as well,” said John Bierk, State Staff Ranger for BLM Colorado/Eastern States.

They are also banned or soon will be when new legislation takes effect on state lands, at least under some conditions, in Washington, Utah, Oregon, and Idaho.

Exploding targets have started at least 16 wildfires since 2012 on Forest Service lands in 8 western states causing the federal government to spend approximately $33.6 million in suppression costs. The U.S. Forest Service provided the table below which lists seven fires started by exploding targets in the Rocky Mountain Region during that time period. The fires burned a total of 1,187 acres in the Region and cost $2.9 million to suppress.

Fires caused by exploding targets

“Exploding targets pose a very real safety threat to visitors and our employees” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

“We have seen a significant increase in the use of exploding targets on National Forest lands within the Region” said U.S. Forest Service Regional Special Agent in Charge Laura Mark. “Our objective is to educate the public on the dangers associated with the use of these targets in vegetation that can ignite a fire, as well as the safety risk they pose to the public, our employees and first responders. In addition to the seven fires caused by exploding targets on national forests in the Region since 2012, explosives ordinance demolition experts have had to respond on three occasions this year to safely dispose of unused targets that had been mixed but not yet used.”

 

Thanks go out to Rick

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Man killed by exploding target; USFS bans them in the northwest

A man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed June 15 by an exploding target. After someone shot the device, shrapnel struck 47-year-old Jeffery Taylor in the abdomen causing him to collapse. KARE11 reported “he was driven to a nearby location where the Rushford Ambulance and Mayo One helicopter were waiting to transport him, but Taylor was pronounced dead on the scene.”

Exploding targets have become popular in the last year with target shooters who get a thrill from seeing the explosion when their bullet hits its mark. The devices are sometimes called “binary exploding targets”, since they are completely inert until two powders are mixed by the target shooter. After they are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555. The manufacturers of the devices claim that the only way they can be detonated is by striking them with a high-velocity bullet fired from a high-powered center-fire rifle. But at least one company has recently started offering targets that will explode when hit with a much less powerful .22 caliber rim-fire rifle.

In addition to the fatality, we are aware of at least two other incidents where exploding targets caused injuries. In October of 2012 Ronald Rofshus was building one of them in Minnesota when it exploded, blowing off his hand and causing severe burns. On October 7, 2012 in Pennsylvania two state Game Commission workers suffered injuries including burns, temporary blindness and hearing damage when an illegal exploding target blew up while the men attempted to put out a fire at a gun range in Pike County.

Safety alert exploding targets

Safety alert exploding targets. Minnesota DNR

Obviously exploding targets are not only a hazard to our lands, but also to shooters and others who may come in contact with them. Kristin Benson, the Safety Administrator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, developed a Safety Alert to warn people about some of the hazards. Minnesota has no restrictions on the use of exploding targets.

The U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets on national forests in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas according to Forest Service spokeswoman Sarah Levy. A violation of the recently implemented ban in Washington and Oregon is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.

The Bureau of Land Management bans them during certain times on their land in some states — not only the use but the possession of the devices.

They are also banned or soon will be when new legislation takes effect on state lands, at least under some conditions, in Washington, Utah, Oregon, and Idaho.

With a quick Google search In October we found 23 wildfires that investigators attributed to exploding targets. Another search today found four more since then or that we did not include in the first list, bringing the total that we are aware of to 27:

  • March 17, 2012, South Dakota. The Beretta II Fire burned 25 acres south of Rapid City near Beretta Road off Highway 16. It took more than 100 firefighters, two air tankers, and a Black Hawk helicopter to put it out.
  • May 4, 2013, Washington. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources determined that the 200-acre Dog Mountain Fire in Lewis County near Riffe Lake was started by an exploding target; 100 firefighters and two helicopters suppressed it. An article at KING5 reports that two other fires in the state this year were also caused by exploding targets.

The Rapid City Journal wrote an editorial July 9 calling for a ban on exploding targets, disagreeing with Denny Gorton, the president of the South Dakota Firefighters Association who was quoted as saying, “I’m not sure we’ve been able to show enough of a correlation to get it regulated or outlawed.”

 

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Exploding targets start fires in the Black Hills

We have written many times about exploding targets, the incendiary devices that when shot with a rifle produce a smoke cloud. The companies that manufacture them claim that when shot, they will not start fires. However, the actual facts are very different.

Below is an excerpt from an article published by the Rapid City Journal this week about how these dangerous devices are becoming more popular in the Black Hills. You may recognize a name in the story.

Target shooters have always enjoyed the sight and sound of a perfect shot.

But thanks to a relatively new product on the market, the experience now threatens the safety of firefighters and the property of anyone who lives in a fire-prone area.

The emergence of exploding targets, which can be bought off the shelf in many stores, has started two fires in the Black Hills and one near Chadron, Neb., which led to charges against the target shooters.

As the targets become more popular, it is causing alarm in the firefighting community.

“Within the last one to two years, we’ve seen a large increase in their use and the wildfires that have been caused by them,” said Special Agent Brenda J. Schultz of the U.S. Forest Service…

UPDATE: The U. S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets in national forests in Washington and Oregon.

 

Thanks go out to Carl.

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