Forest Grove District Forester503-359-7430, firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent wildfires in northwestern Oregon have prompted a plea to recreational target shooters to be extra careful in the forest. In the past two weeks, three fires ignited by shooting burned 68 acres, cost $100,000 to put out, and caused considerable damage to private and public timberlands.
For the Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Mike Cafferata, the fires bring back bad memories of last year’s 36 Pit Fire, which was reported by news media as having been caused by target shooters firing into a rock pit. The fire burned 5,500 acres and cost millions of dollars to contain.
“Our fire danger is at record levels for this time of year,” the Forest Grove District Forester said. “These are conditions we normally see in August.”
The parched forest vegetation is primed to burn from any ignition source, whether a bullet-caused spark, untended campfire, discarded cigarette, or the hot exhaust system of a vehicle idling over dry grass.
Forest managers are reaching out to all forest users, including target shooters, to reduce human-caused fires during this period of extreme fire danger. One option is more public education to raise awareness of the potential for shooting-caused fires when forest fuels are so dry.
He said another approach being considered is tightening restrictions on shooting by either shutting the activity down at 1 p.m. or prohibiting it entirely until fire danger subsides.
“We would like to find a solution that supports landowner activities and the recreating public, while also maintaining forest resources and property,” he said.
In the near term, he asked the recreational shooting public be to particularly careful heading into the extreme heat of the weekend.
Bullets are extremely hot on impact, he said, and fragments of bullets falling on vegetation were likely the cause of the recent fires in the district.
To reduce the risk of fire, he advised target shooters only to shoot into a backstop of mineral soil, and to have the required fire extinguisher (or shovel and water) ready at hand. After shooting, be sure to check the target area for any signs of fire.