Hot, dry West means firing guns can start blazes
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Nineteen wildfires in Utah have been sparked this year by target shooting as dry and windy conditions make such ignitions more likely, authorities said.
Authorities counted 24 wildfires sparked by guns last year, and 20 the year before. Three months remain in the dry season.
The state cannot do much to prevent more of these fires this year. Cities can restrict certain types of ammunition and targets for fire safety, but gun laws limit such regulations at the state level, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
In other parts of the West, authorities in Colorado were investigating whether recreational shooting is to blame for starting a 1,145-acre wildfire near Lake George over the weekend.
Hot, windy weather Thursday made the region ripe for new fires spreading in Utah as well as parts of western Colorado, Nevada and Oregon. In another sign of how dry the West is, a highway mower is suspected of sparking a 6-acre wildfire along the Arkansas River in southern Colorado.
The fire, which started Wednesday, temporarily closed a stretch of the river to rafting in a canyon where the artist Christo is seeking permission to suspend huge fabric panels. Opponents cited the fire as another reason to reject the work, saying a 15-ton drilling rig and other heavy equipment needed for the project would make it difficult for residents to evacuate in an emergency.
In New Mexico, more than 100 firefighters were battling a blaze in wooded area along the Rio Grande on the northern edge of Albuquerque. Residents near the approximately 280-acre fire are on alert but no one has been evacuated.
– In Colorado, a second wave of evacuees from a 68,200-acre fire were returning home. Some have been warned to stay ready to leave again as firefighters attempt to encircle the blaze west of Fort Collins.
– In California, residents were allowed to return to homes and cabins by a 385-acre fire near Sequoia National Park. A body was found at the scene of a small brushfire in the San Fernando Valley and authorities are trying to determine whether it was dumped there.
– In Wyoming, firefighters contained about 5 percent of a wildfire scorching more than 4 square miles in a remote and mountainous area of the Medicine Bow National Forest.
– In New Mexico, a fire that has destroyed 242 homes and businesses was 60 percent contained. The largest fire in state history has blackened 463 square miles in the Gila Wilderness and is 80 percent contained.
– In Arizona, firefighters were maintaining lines around a wildfire that threatened transmission lines owned by two of the state’s largest utilities. That fire near Young had grown to 11,011 acres, up from 8,100 acres on Wednesday.
– In Hawaii, the largest wildfire of the season has scorched at least 5,200 acres on the Big Island. A separate fire that has been burning since Monday threatened a hospital and forced the closure of its emergency room.
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