Two people have been ordered to pay $9,450 restitution for starting the Three Mile Fire nine miles east of Florence, Montana in August, 2014 that burned about 50 acres before firefighters extinguished it at a cost estimated at $94,000. Tristan C. Olson, 30, of Missoula and Caitlin E. Hoover, 28, of Stevensville, Montana agreed to the settlement in exchange for the felony charges being dropped. They will also have to follow specific conditions for three years, including abstaining from the consumption of alcohol and drugs or entering bars or casinos.
The fire started when an exploding target was detonated in a tree surrounded by waist-high cured grass.
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, 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.
Exploding targets consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosive when shot by a high-velocity projectile. They have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years and 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 determined that a 250-acre fire in the Pike National Forest was caused by shooting. The Snyder Creek 2 fire was first reported Sunday afternoon three miles southeast of Kenosha Pass near Park County Road 56 approximately 19 miles North of Fairplay. There was a fire in the same area in 2011.
Firefighters battled 20 to 30 mph winds on Sunday, but expect full containment by Monday evening.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rick and Bean.
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.
Five men who started what became a 38-acre fire near Alfalfa, Oregon in August, 2012 were ordered earlier this year to pay $17,569 to defray a portion of the costs of suppressing the Mayfield Fire. The BLM estimates they spent $88,000 to put out the blaze.
The men pleaded no contest to reckless burning, a Class A misdemeanor. They were identified as Redmond residents Peter Lee, then 31, and Clarence Christy, 32, and Bend residents Albert Sears, 27; William Loving, 25; and Jordon Odell, 25, said Deschutes County sheriff’s Sgt. Vance Lawrence.
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.
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.
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.
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.