2nd fire may be caused by recreational shooting - Tucson News Now

2nd fire may be caused by recreational shooting

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The Bureau of Land Management through Twitter warned recreational shooters of the perils of using incendiary devices as part of their target shooting.

Fire Prevention Order #AZ901-2015-001, issued two years ago, was again released following suspicions that the 40,000 acre Sawmill Fire may have been started by an off duty border patrol agent who was target shooting and may have been using an incendiary device. 

The Order states "The use..of explosives or any kind..incendiary..or exploding targets" is prohibited.

The penalties for anyone convicted is not more than $1,000 and or imprisonment of not more than 12 months, but added to that "those deemed responsible" may be responsible for the costs of suppression and rehabilitation related to the fire.

That totals nearly $2 million so far, and counting.

FirePreventionOrder AZ910 2015 001 by Tucson News Now on Scribd

If proven, this would be the second wildland fire suspected of being started by recreational shooting.

The Molino Fire on the Catalina Highway started on April 4. Fire officials are still looking for a person of interest who was seen in the area at the time.

Recreational shooting is a big sport in Arizona and takes many forms. Shooting at an approved and organized shooting range is the safest and least controversial form of target shooting.

But shooting in the Arizona desert is also very popular.

"We go out to the desert, shoot free range style," said Chip Germa, who came to the Tucson Mountain Park Shooting Range from Maricopa, to shoot on a Friday afternoon. "There are rules out there, you want to be safe about it."

However, when recreational shooters start using incendiary devices, it adds another, more potent element. 

"They are highly flammable," said Mark Hart, of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "They actually compound the effect of a bullet ricochet off a rock and sparking a fire that way."

"I've shot them on private ranges where there was no brush or anything," said Marty Badegian, who retired from the Army and now shoots for sport. "You know it's just kind of a novelty item like a firecracker."

Instead of lighting a fuse, the explosion is caused when it is hit with a bullet.

Still up for debate is where to draw the line as to when it becomes dangerous to shoot recreationally.

"Generally when it's uncomfortably hot, people don't go out shooting recreationally," said Germa. "When it's real nice, like right now, I don't see it as a problem."

But Mother Nature can be deceiving according to Hart. 

"If the forest service or other federal agencies are cautioning that the risk of fire is high, don't go recreational shooting," he said. 

This time of year, it may feel comfortable, but the conditions may be ripe for fires. 

"Right now, I would not advise anybody to be doing that," said Badegain. "As dry as its been, the wind, it's just such a high risk of starting a fire."

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