Video of exploding target starting a fire

The U.S. Attorney’s office in the district of Colorado has been very proactive over the last year in dealing with the issue of exploding targets, which are known to start wildfires as well as injuring and even killing bystanders. Their office produced the video above which has been used in other parts of the country to support the prohibition of exploding targets on federal and state managed lands.

In the slow motion part of the video be sure to notice the extensive shrapnel being blown away at high speed..

Recently the U.S. Forest Service presented an award to U.S. Attorney John F. Walsh for his office’s support to the U.S. Forest Service in protecting national forest system lands within the Rocky Mountain Region (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming) from the effects of exploding targets. Walsh dedicated his staff to work with the U.S. Forest Service to plan, communicate and implement a prohibition of these devices that have caused multiple wildland fires since 2012.

exploding target award John Walsh

From left to right, Associate Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Mary Wagner; United States Attorney, District of Colorado John F. Walsh; Director Law Enforcement and Investigations of the U.S. Forest Service David Ferrell; Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Tom Tidwell. (USFS photo.)

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Update on the legality of exploding targets

Regular readers of Wildfire Today know that we have been covering the use and the prohibition of exploding targets. The devices have become popular in the last three 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 exploding targets. Sometimes called “binary exploding targets”, they are completely inert until two powders are mixed by the shooter. After the ingredients 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.

An example of one fire was the Ten-Mile Fire in Idaho in July, 2012. It was started by a property owner who was shooting an exploding target on his land. The target ignited a fire that threatened at least two homes and burned 440 acres of federal land. The owner agreed to pay $168,500 to cover taxpayer costs of suppressing the fire.

Not only can they start fires, but exploding targets can cause death and injuries. In 2013 a man in Minnesota was killed when shrapnel from the device struck 47-year-old Jeffery Taylor in the abdomen causing him to collapse. He was declared dead before he could be transported to a hospital in a helicopter.

About two years ago Jennifer Plank Greer was struck by shrapnel while she was taking cell phone video of someone who shot at the explosive which was inside a refrigerator. Her hand was blown almost completely off, left hanging only by a portion of skin. Through 16 surgical procedures doctors reattached the hand, but she no longer has the use of her fingers, except for being able to wiggle her thumb.

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.

In an article published August 20, 2014, titled “7 ways children can have fun at the shooting range”, the NRA lists exploding targets as number seven, saying about the devices:

These are on the top of the “fun” list. The resounding “BOOM” and puff of smoke is fun to see, hear and smell. We shot some with a couple of LG’s teammates and had a BLAST…Exploding targets can be quite expensive, and you do need to be extra careful.

Much of the land in the United States where target shooters wish to use exploding targets is administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

National Forests map

U.S. Forest Service system lands. USFS map.

In July, Larry Chambers, National Press Officer for the U.S. Forest Service, was quoted in the Spokesman Review:

The Forest Service is working to clarify and better define existing regulations that impact the use of exploding targets on national forest system lands,” said Larry Chambers, Forest Service media relations officer in Washington, D.C. ”Our current focus is on educating the public.” It might be several weeks before agency officials react on a national basis, he said.

Today Mr. Chambers told us there is still no nationwide USFS policy:

There is no national exploding target prohibition by the Forest Service, and the agency fully recognizes hunting and safe target shooting as a valid use of National Forest System lands. The prohibition of exploding targets on some National Forest System lands is not intended to adversely affect the sport of target shooting.

Mr. Chambers said exploding targets are prohibited on National Forest Systems (NFS) lands in most of the western states, in USFS regions 1, 2, 4, and 6 (see the map below). They have also been banned on NFS lands in Texas and Oklahoma, but we are checking to determine if the prohibitions in those two states are still in effect. California is not included, he said, because they are banned statewide by state law. Some national Forests in Regions 8, 9, and 10 may have local special orders that prohibit the used of exploding targets, Mr. Chamber said.

Some of the regional bans are only temporary, and expire in 2015.

US Forest Service regions map

U. S. Forest Service Region numbers. USFS map.

Other exploding target prohibitions:

  • On April 20, 2014 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.
  • Under a new Maryland law passed after heavy lobbying by state fire investigators, the devices can no longer be purchased, used or carried in Maryland by anyone without an explosives license.
  • Idaho state law prohibits use of exploding targets, tracer ammunition and other fire-causing materials on state range and forest lands during the “closed fire season,” which generally runs May 10 to Oct. 20.
  • In Washington and Oregon the BLM bans exploding targets from spring through fall during the wildfire season.
  • A state law in Washington bans exploding targets and tracer ammunition year-round on state-managed lands.
  • A new law in Oregon took effect this year that bans exploding targets and tracer ammunition on state-protected lands during fire season.
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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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