Officials consider target shooting rules
August 27, 2004
RENO – Local, state and federal fire officials may take aim at target shooters for the first time after a man with a rifle admitted he started a wildfire that destroyed six houses south of Reno.
Officials said gun enthusiasts who have been free to target practice in Nevada could be restricted to designated sites because of the intense fire danger created by drought and heat.
“I think it’s something we need to look at,” Reno Fire Marshal Larry Farr said. “These fires started by target shooting are not all that uncommon, especially when we’re in the third or fourth year of a drought and there’s low humidity.”
Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson said target shooting is among outdoor activities that will be discussed when officials consider a new round of fire restrictions for this gun-friendly state.
He said the fire danger is so extreme that backpackers now are forbidden to use cookstoves in California’s Tahoe National Forest near Lake Tahoe – the first such ban he’s aware of.
“Any activity that has the potential to ignite a fire should be considered as part of restrictions,” Anderson said. “The conditions in the field warrant that level of restrictions.”
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Wednesday’s nearly 2,700-acre fire south of Reno was sparked by a man who was target shooting when a bullet ricocheted off a rock, Farr said.
No citation was immediately issued, but Farr said the man is liable for firefighting costs and could face civil lawsuits from people whose homes were destroyed or damaged.
It was the most recent in a series of wildfires that have been blamed on target shooters in recent years, including a 2001 blaze that prompted the evacuation of 60 homes and a hospital in Susanville, Calif., 90 miles north of Reno.
Shooters also were accused of starting a July wildfire that destroyed four mobile homes and 14 outbuildings 90 miles east of Los Angeles, and one of last fall’s devastating wildfires across Southern California that scorched more than 750,000 acres, destroyed 3,650 homes and killed 24 people.
No special shooting restrictions are planned at this time on the Bureau of Land Management’s 48 million acres in Nevada, spokesman Richard Brown said.
Gerald Lent of the Nevada Hunters Association said he wouldn’t object to restrictions on shooters as long as they’re not unfairly singled out.
“If you’re going to close the area to target shooters, you need to close it to backpacking and motor homes and everybody else,” he said. “There are irresponsible target shooters. But those other people can start fires, too.”