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City officials react to fire sparked by target shooting near Alpine

Posted at 12:16 PM, Jul 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-23 23:15:00-04

ALPINE, Utah -- A wildfire started caused by target shooting in Alpine on Wednesday is sparking frustration from city officials.

"In our Alpine city, definitely no shooting,” City Mayor Don Watkins said.

Just feet away from Lambert Park in the city, a teenager was practicing his shot on U.S. Forest Service land when the surrounding brush suddenly caught fire. In total, the fire burned approximately 2.5 acres.

While Alpine prohibits target shooting this time of year, the USFS allows the activity. Because of the risk of wildfires during the summer months, Watkins wants federal regulations to be on par with his city’s.

“Something has got to be done if that's an ordinance where people can go up and shoot in the forest and it started a fire,” Watkins said. “We just can’t have it.”

The USFS does ban certain types of targets, such as explosives, because of wildfire dangers.

“National forests are pretty much open to target shooting, but we try to remind people to be safe when they’re out shooting,” said David Whittekind, Forest Supervisor- Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Over the last few years, the agency has seen fewer fires caused by target shooting.  According to Whittekind, someone is more likely to cause a wildfire by forgetting to put out a camp fire than they are from target shooting.

“We try to ask people to consider if they are going out on a hundred-degree day shooting on dry grass, that they might think about the gun range instead,” Whittekind said.

That doesn’t go far enough for Watkins, though.

“I don't think the citizenry is going to put up with any kind of legal firearms that could start a fire,” Watkins said.

He’s hopeful that discussion with the USFS could lead to a more effective solution in the future.

Utah Wildfires: Fire locations, road closures and evacuations