Suspects accused of starting Lake Christine Fire with tracer rounds plead not guilty

The fire that started July 3, 2018 near Basalt, Colorado burned 12,588 acres and three homes

Lake Christine Fire
The Lake Christine Fire, July 4, 2018. Photo: Katie Baum Hueth, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

The two people charged with starting the Lake Christine Fire pleaded not guilty during a court appearance. Investigators said the fire that started July 3, 2018 was ignited by tracer rounds used at a shooting range by Allison Marcus, 22, and Richard Miller, 23. Shortly after the fire ignited Marcus and Miller were cooperative and talked with law enforcement officials.

The fire burned 12,588 acres and three homes near Basalt and El Jebel 15 air miles southeast of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Richard Miller and Allison Marcus
Richard Miller and Allison Marcus. Photo: Eagle County Sheriff’s Office

The date of the trials for the suspects is uncertain, but they could be scheduled for May or June.

Tracer rounds are incendiary ammunition. They have a substance that burns when fired, making the trajectory of the bullet visible during daylight, but especially noticeable at night. Tracer ammunition is banned in many areas, including the area where the Lake Christine Fire started.

Miller and Marcus have been charged with fourth-degree arson.

Evacuations ordered for Lake Christine Fire at Basalt, Colorado

Tracer rounds used at a shooting range started the fire, officials said

Above: The Lake Christine Fire, Wednesday night. Photo: Katie Baum Hueth, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

(UPDATED at 8:19 a.m. MDT July 5, 2018)

Mandatory evacuations are in effect in several locations for the Lake Christine Fire that is burning between Basalt and El Jebel, Colorado 15 air miles southeast of Glenwood Springs.

The fire started July 3 from tracer ammunition being used by shooters near Basalt.

Fire officials estimated Thursday morning it has burned approximately 4,900 acres.

map lake christine fire
Map showing the location of the Lake Christine Fire between Basalt and El Jebel, Colorado, updated at 9:45 a.m MDT July 5, 2018.

Below is a time-lapse showing the growth of the fire on July 4.

Continue reading “Evacuations ordered for Lake Christine Fire at Basalt, Colorado”

“Experts” defend hunter accused of starting fire when bullet struck a rock

A controversy is brewing in New Zealand about the ability of a bullet to start a fire when it strikes a rock. Below is an excerpt from an article at TVNZ.co.NZ:

Experts on fires and firearms are offering to help a Dunedin hunter fight the Otago Rural Fire Authority which is fining him over a bushfire. Tom Dodds has been accused of starting the fire, which he called in, and he’s been charged more than $60,000 by the fire authority for the cost of putting it out.

Seven Sharp reported earlier in the week that the fire investigator believes Mr Dodds’ bullet ricocheted off a rock, bounced 80 metres and hit another rock, which caused the fire 45  minutes later.

The programme reported last night it has received a lot of feedback on the case, including expert opinions from fire and firearms investigators.

One was straight to the point, calling the authority’s version of events impossible. Another, with 40 years experience, had never heard of a bullet causing a fire.

Causing a fire 45 minutes later is difficult to comprehend unless it was smoldering before it was detected.

It is a fact, however, that it is possible for a bullet striking an object to ignite a fire. We covered research on this topic in December, 2013:

…This research shows that fires can be ignited by hot fragments of the bullets due to the heat generated when the kinetic energy of the lead, copper, or steel is transformed to thermal energy by plastic deformation and fracturing from the high-strain rates during impact…

Coincidence or not, on Thursday the National Interagency Fire Center in the U.S. distributed this tweet:

In the New Zealand case, it’s probably not sparks from the rock that created a problem, but hot metal from the bullet itself that may have started the fire. It is possible that when the bullet hit the first rock, hot metal fragments were created which flew 80 meters and landed in flammable material. A second rock may not have played a significant part.

Wildfire News, March 7, 2016

Alaska April wildfire potential
April wildfire potential in Alaska, based on vegetation conditions and weather predictions.

Fire officials say to ‘expect an early start’ to Alaska wildfire season.

Shooter’s tracer rounds ignite 2-day forest fire at Missouri gun range

A proposed Utah law would enable police to shoot drones, but people have been arrested for doing so.

–A massive bushfire cut off and isolated the South Island town of Hanmer Springs, New Zealand on Tuesday (local time).

–The Arizona Wildfire Academy is taking place in Prescott this week.

Hubbardston, Massachusetts gets military surplus truck to help battle brush fires.

Hubbardston Mass mil surplus truck
Hubbardston, Mass. military surplus truck. Photo: Hubbardston Fire Department.

Two people ordered to pay $9,450 for starting wildfire with exploding target

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.

Mountain lion cubs
Two mountain lion cubs that were rescued in the fire. Photo by Cory Rennaker, Bitterroot National Forest Helitack, USFS.

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.

The two people being charged were busted at least in part by writing about their adventure on Facebook that amounted to a confession.

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.

Shooters cause 250-acre fire in Colorado

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.

Snyder Creek 2 fire
Photo of the Snyder Creek Fire, by Park County Sheriff’s Office.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rick and Bean.