Exploding targets: should they be banned?

The issue of exploding targets is receiving more attention as additional evidence is revealed about fires started by these devices. We have written about them a number of times, and now the Wenatchee World has called attention to the issue today in an article by KC Mehaffey. You may recognize some of the names in this excerpt from the article. (Update: a new pay wall may prevent you from viewing the article at that web site. The San Francisco Chronicle also has it, after the story was picked up by the AP.)

Kelsey Hilderbrand, owner of High Mountain Hunting Supply in Wenatchee, said he’s only familiar with Tannerite’s exploding targets. which he sells at his store for between $4.95 and $9 apiece, depending on the size. “We sell a lot of them. They’re very popular, and they’re a lot of fun,” he said. Hilderbrand said he’s used them a lot, using a haystack as a backdrop, and the targets have never started a fire.

“They are a gaseous explosion,” he said, “They are not a heat-related explosion, so there’s no way to have an ignition-based system.”

Others disagree.

“There’s no question they start fires,” said Bill Gabbert, a former wildland firefighter and fire investigator in Southern California who now produces the online magazine, Wildfire Today.

Gabbert said he found 23 wildfires ignited by exploding target shooters last summer just by searching the Internet. He said he believes they are a growing danger because more and more people are starting to use them.

“It’s just become so popular. If you search on YouTube, you’ll see dozens or hundreds of videos,” he said.

But even if some people think they are fun, Gabbert says exploding targets are nothing to play around with. His website links to a newscast in which a car is demolished by detonating exploding targets.

“I think we need to figure out a way to ban the use of exploding targets,” he said, adding, “I’m convinced they are too dangerous to use.”

John Maclean — author of several books on fatal wildfires including one on the 2001 Thirtymile Fire near Winthrop — said he’s concerned about the danger that exploding targets pose to firefighters.

I am a gun owner, hunter, was on an NCAA varsity Rifle Team in college, and was a member of the NRA before they transmogrified, adopting ridiculous policies. My home is protected by Glock and several other brands. Target shooting is fine as long as it is done safely and does not start fires, damage the environment, or leave behind trash. But the use of these explosive devices during the 2012 fire season has proven that they are incendiary, and too many people have started fires by using them.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

6 thoughts on “Exploding targets: should they be banned?”

  1. @Cunningham:
    I echo Gabbert’s remark: nice catch!

    Unfortunately, once it’s picked up by AP there’s little chance of fixing it. Ever chase fireflies (lightning bugs) with a bottle when you were a kid? I did. Once the Associated Press picks up a story from a little newspaper, even with bigass booboos, it’s out there and runs over the wire and everybody and their dog can and will run the same story, and editors (obviously) don’t care about the print versions (why should they?) but now and then you can persuade them to fix the online version.

    YAY you for catching a bigass error there.

  2. If you click to the Wenatchee World article you’ll read that the Goat fire was 73,000 acres, it was actually 7,300 and change.

    1. Good catch, Robt. On Inciweb, the fire is listed at 7,378 acres. By the way, the article has been picked up by the Associated Press and now is appearing in dozens of newspapers.

  3. “My home is protected by Glock and several other brands.”

    Try a lock & key rather than a gun. Locked doors have never contributed towards the ignition of any wildfire. And unlike guns, intruders can’t easily harm you with your own deadbolt.

  4. No need to ban them. On the Wet side they have little potential.
    For high hazard areas, just tie their use to industrial operation rules.
    If you dont allow road blasting under a precaution class, dont allow
    exploding targets.

    Minimum restrictions with good education will gain much more
    respect and compliance.


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