Legislation introduced in Montana to fine feds for wildfire smoke

Beaver Fire

Smoke rises from the Beaver Fire northwest of Yreka, California, August 12, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

In recent summers, Gallatin Valley residents have sometimes had to endure poor air quality from wildfire smoke, so a Bozeman legislator wants Montana to be able to fine the federal government for that.

In a Natural Resources Committee hearing this week, Rep. Tom Burnett, R-Bozeman, presented House Bill 340, which would require the Department of Environmental Quality “to fine the federal government for fires on certain federal lands that contribute to exceedance of air quality standards.”

Burnett provided the committee a graphic of the smoke from wildfires in 2012 and the readings from the 11 DEQ monitoring stations in Montana, most of which registered unhealthy air quality on various days.
“Smoke pollution compromises public health. Under this bill, the DEQ determines whether mismanaged federal lands are responsible for any part of breaching of the air standard. If they are, the federal government is corrected in the same way an industrial polluter would be,” Burnett said at the Wednesday hearing. “Federal land managers should manage the forests so it does not cause air pollution.”…

Share

Arson charges filed against two who started fire with exploding target, orphaning mountain lion cubs

Mountain lion cubs

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

Felony arson charges have been filed against two people who allegedly started the Three Mile Fire nine miles east of Florence, Montana in August, 2014. 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. They were adopted by the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium, and on September 23 made an appearance on David Letterman’s show along with Jack Hanna.

The two people being charged were busted at least in part by writing about their adventure on Facebook that amounted to a confession. They should also be charged with Felony Dumb.

Below are excerpts from an article in the Missoulian:

Tristan C. Olson, 30, of Missoula and Caitlin E. Hoover, 28, of Stevensville are scheduled to appear Feb. 17 on a series of felony charges stemming from the Aug. 29, 2014, fire on the Three Mile Wildlife Management Area.

The fire was started by an exploding target that was lodged in a tree surrounded by waist-high cured grass. The explosion ignited the tree and the fire quickly spread.

On Aug. 29, Hoover posted on Facebook: “My old pal Tristan Olson just showed up at mi casa and woke me up with a mikes hard ass slurpie and some guns and ammo…heading for the hills…ha! Yay!!!”

The last post on Olson’s Facebook page for the same day showed a photograph of a column of smoke rising above the Three Mile WMA fire with Olson’s back facing the camera. The caption read: “Dang…”

[…]

After receiving a search warrant for Hoover’s Facebook account, the affidavit said the warden found she had deleted photos of the two shooting together on the WMA.

He also found a conversation that Hoover had with someone named “Topher Devoe” on Sept. 21. In answering Devoe’s question of “what other crazy things have you done,” Hoover responded: “I just started a forest fire by shooting an assault rifle at an exploding target and burnt down 60 acres of forest. Shhh the fire is still under investigation.”

Hoover attached the photo of the Olson watching the smoke rising from the WMA.

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.

Orphaned mountain lion cubs fire

The orphaned cubs after being adopted. Photo by the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dick.

Share

BLM firefighter recognized as hero for saving two girls from drowning

Justin Hanley

Sisters Chava (left) and Shoshana Berry (center) were on hand to make the presentation of the Carnegie Medal to Justin Hanley (right) the evening of Dec. 13.

A Bureau of Land Management wildland firefighter employed at the Miles City, Montana Field Office was recently awarded the Carnegie Medal for Heroism for saving two young girls from drowning in the Yellowstone River.

Justin Lowell Hanley saved Chava L. and Shoshana L. Berry from drowning near Miles City, Montana, August 4, 2013. Sisters Chava, 14, and Shoshana, 10, were wading in the Yellowstone River along the bank when the current pulled them into the deeper water of the river’s channel and carried them downstream.

According to a news release from the Miles City field office of the BLM-Eastern Montana/Dakotas, the sisters were wading along the bank of the river at Miles City when the current pulled them into deeper water and carried them downstream.

Mr. Hanley, who was staying in a rented trailer nearby, ran several hundred feet along the bank to a point just beyond the girls.

“We had just finished dinner, and my wife glanced out the window and saw a woman running with a kid,” Mr. Hanley said. “We went out and saw her two granddaughters in the river going downstream.”

When he entered the water, the current pulled on him, too, but he reached the sisters about 250 feet from the bank. Holding Chava with one arm and Shoshana with the hand on the same arm,he used his free arm to stroke back to the bank, the current continuing to take the three people downstream.

While his firefighter training may have not specifically prepared him for a river rescue, an important part of the job played a part, he said.

“With our fire training, we have about 1½ hours every day to train and stay in shape,” he said. “You don’t want to fight wildland fires out of shape.”

“I was plumb full of food,” he said with a chuckle. But during his time in the water, he wasn’t thinking about the nice meal he’d just eaten.

Fatigued and suffering abrasions, he finally reached the bank with the girls at a point about 700 feet downstream from where he entered the river.

The day after his efforts, Mr. Hanley was in Billings to be with two of his own children having their tonsils taken out. He learned that Chava, who had taken in a lot of water during the ordeal, was in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and so he ended up visiting three children that day.

Share

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.

Share