Firearms and Wildfires

After Randy’s Tannerite-involving, don’t burn down the city escapades, I’ve been trying to find research-based information on the effects of discharging a firearm in a wildfire prone area. I’ve found several news stories out of California and Utah which blame target shooters for wildfires. I’ve read forum postings which state that shooting can cause fires, that it can’t, that only certain types or colors of ammo can start fires and that any fires are caused by the shooters and not the shooting. I want proof, not old wives’ tails or speculation, so I went where I always go when I want accurate information on a topic… to Cooperative Extension.

Using the website, I was able to sift through research-based, peer-reviewed information from Cooperative Extensions across the U.S. I discovered one mention of firearms and fires in a publication put out by Colorado State University’s Extension service. The fact sheet is called Cheatgrass and Wildfire and it states: “During hunting season or target practice, be aware of fires that may ignite due to stray bullets hitting solid objects and thus creating sparks.”

I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened to Randy. The near-disaster did occur in a very rocky area and rocks are solid objects. The shooter did get hit by flying debris… a rock fragment perhaps? In any case, I agree with Randy’s conclusion that it’s a good idea for shooters plinking on public land to bring fire extinguishers with them. I’d also add to his conclusion that shooters should bring with them:

  • a cell phone, CB radio, etc. to be used to contact emergency personnel if reinforcements are needed.
  • water. Keep old milk jugs filled with water close to shooters. Having several jugs available will allow all parties present to participate in the firefight. The water can also be used to thoroughly wet down the area to prevent any possible unseen sparks from smoldering and starting a fire later on.
  • a full- or camp-sized shovel or trowel. Randy’s fire crew stomped, watered, rocked and soiled their fires. Something to quickly scoop up soil and throw it on the fire to smother it would have helped the fires to be put out sooner.


1 Comment

  • Sennin says:

    “During hunting season or target practice, be aware of fires that may ignite due to stray bullets hitting solid objects and thus creating sparks.”

    I want to see the data on the above. Lead and copper impacting rock have never caused a single spark that I’ve seen in forty years of testing such things. That includes low-light and dark night shoots. Steel core and jacket, yes. Lead and copper, no.

    That being said, I have found that hot or burning powder residue from handguns will, occasionally, ignite flammable material three to five yards in front of a shooter and one to two yards laterally if they’re using a revolver.

    Just my 2 cents …

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