Saturday, June 23, 2012

Protip: Be careful when shooting in a tinderbox.

So, in the information packet for the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun match, it noted that tracers were a no-no: "the high desert in summer is unforgiving!"

I was reminded of that by this news story:
BLM officials say they believe the blaze was caused when a bullet hit a rock and sparked the fire. This is the 20th target-shooting related fire this year in Utah, they said.
Setting aside any institutional bias of "BLM officials" against shooters, I guess there's a safety tip to be had here. While I suppose that it's theoretically possible that a fleeting spark from a steel-cored or -jacketed round could maybe have hit the lucky grass stem in just the right place*, tracers are always a more likely suspect. If just "shooting" caused that many wildfires, Elmer Keith would have burned Idaho to the waterline thrice over.

Once upon a time, I managed to accidentally get a little fire going on the hillside behind our targets with some .30 Carbine tracer ammo. Trudging back and forth into the Georgia loblollies with buckets of water to douse what was, all in all, not much of a fire learned me all the lesson I needed on tracers. Remember, kids: Only you can prevent forest fires, and you can prevent them by using Smokey Bear's shovel to go upside the head of the dimwit shooting tracers into the brush...


(*I have to believe this was rifle shooting and the initial smoldering happened hundreds of yards downrange. The idea that pistol shooters could have wandered away from a fire started by burning powder flakes more or less right at their feet is too *headdesk* to contemplate.)

EDIT: I am informed in comments by Joel that you damn skippy can set a dry range alight with steel-cored ammo. Having done most of my shooting in the verdant East, but with the northern half of Indiana having been declared in "severe drought" the other day, this is good to know.

33 comments:

Ed Foster said...

Smokey Says: Remember, forest fires prevent bears!

Joel said...

Well, I know from experience that steel-core bullets can cause brush fires. Dunno how common it is, but I've seen it. No tracers, just - I dunno, sparks, I guess.

Big fire, too. Shut down the range. Helicopters with water dumpers. Unhappy proprietors.

Brad K. said...

Of course, none of those steel bullets sparking Utah fires were fired by The Ones practicing, or ambushing evil marijuana grower scofflaws. And certainly none were SWAT teams collecting late student loans for the Dept of Ed. And the BLM didn't start any by plunking at "extra" mustangs, either.

'Cause the BLM would have said, if the shooter fires resulted from folk on the job. Wouldn't they?

Farm.Dad said...

Yes , steel core ammo can start a fire , and so can that soda bottle tossed aside . Just about any human activity * can* start a range fire out here in the high tenderbox . Personally I only allow tracers in certain areas of my range that have dependably non flammable backstops . " Improper " use of tannerite and other splody targets is rapidly becoming the real issue with shooters starting fires out here though .

Firehand said...

Whenever it gets really dry, like last year, we get news reports here of fires started by ANYTHING that can make a spark. One year had a string of grass fires along a highway traced to a van with a dragging muffler: the grass was so dry the sparks from that were enough to start them.

BobG said...

Personally, I think it more likely that one of the shooters was careless with a cigarette butt.

Tam said...

Firehand,

"One year had a string of grass fires along a highway traced to a van with a dragging muffler: the grass was so dry the sparks from that were enough to start them."

Just north of Indy in the past week, we had one caused by a truck tire blowout. Enough sparkage from the shredding steel belts met the tinder in the roadside verge and *foof!*

Chas S. Clifton said...

Right now, the Springer Fire west of Colorado Springs, about 1,100 acres and growing, is being blamed on recreational shooting on the Pike National Forest

Media reports have talked about someone shooting reactive targets or a propane tank (!!), but I wonder if it was tracers that started it.
My club bans tracers at the range, but it is a self-service operation, so we can only hope that members read the sign.

CapitalistPig said...

Brush fires will start from lead splatter too. As Farm Dad noted, even a glass bottle will start a fire.

In Arizona, BLM has been trying to shut down shooting on lands they control. I don't doubt the Utah BLM office has same goal.

Derfel Cadarn said...

I am informed it is possible to staert a fire with impacts of steel cored ammo. Which in real life is as likely as being struck by lighting while being eaten by a shark while playing the klavachord in the bed of a pickup in Omamha Neb. Possible but not likey. As for 20 times,watch out I thought I heard thunder.

Chris said...

BLM has control over land in Arizona? I thought it was leased to the cartels,and THEY control it now,no?

CIII

Joseph said...

Used to never hear of this in the news. I wonder if it is because there are more shooters than ever or just another attempt by the media to portrait firearms & owners negatively?

Ygolonac said...

A few years back, I made my first trip out to a BLM-land shootin' hole west of here... a drizzly wet day in a drizzly wet month. I got out there, to be greeted with...

... forty-foot flames. Seems Homer and Jethro had managed to set fire to the wet green grass on the hillside. Compounding which, they'd lost the truck keys trying to put it out, thus the rural fire department got to take down a section of fence to try and get the pump-truck in. (Their truck was blocking the gate, of course.)

Ever see a pump-truck bogged to the axle in soft ground?

Luckily, truck #2 got in OK. I am bloody well *certain* that those dolts were playing with tracers, at the minimum. Never saw even so much as smoke out there, elsewise, even during "baked death" summers.

Ian said...

Yep, I started a small brush fire once with copper-jacketed 8mm (not tracer). I got it extinguished, but it sure put an end to what had been a fun day at the range. I don't shoot into areas with any vegetation anymore.

bluesun said...

Pretty sure the people who say it isn't possible haven't been to the high desert during a drought year...

Pawpaw said...

I've started fires with tracers in a Louisiana swamp, although I was burning .50 cal ammo through an M2.

For that tinderbox high desert, I'd suspect tracers or tannerite.

Will said...

@Ygonolac:

the pumper truck guys did it wrong. The proper way is to put your bumper against the blocking vehicle and shove it out of the way. And have the offending owner cited if the paint/chrome gets scratched on your bumper in the process.

At least that is the way it was done in NJ, when I lived there, way back then.

Kristopher said...

Not enough brushfires.

When you spend a hundred years putting out ALL fires, you accumulate a lot of fuel on the ground.

Some ranchers in eastern Oregon have been deliberately burning their lands to control sage brush, the climax forest of the Upper Sonoran desert.

Darrell said...

Forest Service has been trying to ban shooting in the national forests here (Colorado) for years. I wonder if this is just their latest tacitc. Per Chas's remarks, the fire west of here has been attributed to tannerite or shooting a propane bottle.

Jennifer said...

We once started a small fire in the big field with tracers. I have very entertaining pictures of DanielS riding the back of AEPilot Jim's jeep to put it out. It had burned itself out by the time they got there.

Brad K. said...

@ Will,

What happens in NJ isn't the same as out in back of yonder, with two yahoos standing there with long arms in hand, and already proved to be able to lose their truck keys and set wet grass afire.

I think I would have tried the ditch, too. Think about it, the next time you find yourself considering the prudent course, but face to face with arrant stupidity.

Anonymous said...

People from east of the 100th parallel don't know shit about the west. People who work in government know even less than the mouth-breathing morons who voted them there.

Right now, here in southern Colorado, the temperature is 96F and the relative humidity is 8%. I've seen RH's as low as 3%. People from back east cannot event conceive of humidity that low. The possibility that the air could get that dry doesn't ever penetrate their oh-so-terribly-moist existence.

Couple these conditions with the fact that we have cheatgrass everywhere, thanks to incompetent land management agencies and their kow-towing to the environmentalist morons' agenda against grazing on "public" lands and you have the makings of a firestorm. They might as well have made air tanker drops of gasoline over vast swathes of the west. No bullets, tracers or steel core FMJ ammo are needed, altho they certainly make headlines. All you need is a car or SUV with a catalytic converter to pause too long in the wrong place and the range goes up in flames.

Anonymous said...

"the pumper truck guys did it wrong. The proper way is to put your bumper against the blocking vehicle and shove it out of the way."

Yep. I've known several fire departments. Park in front of a fire hydrant they need & they will happily break your windows and run a fire hose ( the really leaky "canvas" kind) through your car, which will in 15min resemble a large plush hot tub. Or worse.

Cars and trucks in the way... they will bulldoze them right out of the way with their biggest truck unless you are RIGHT THERE getting it out of the way RIGHT NOW.

Block them at a light when you refuse to get out of the way. Not for very long you won't.

I've seen the photo's, it ain't pretty but it is FAST.

Oh and your insurance company and theirs will be unsympathetic to your cause.

Rob said...

Cheat grass, a weed that has taken over a lot of the west, burns like gasoline. It really doesn't take much at all to set it off.

Matthew said...

Hell, just during Boot and SOI (Jan to July) on Pendleton in '91 we had three or four range ceasefires so America's 911 Force: The Next Generation, could hightail it downrange to put boots to the flames the steel-core ammo sparked up.

I'm not sure that was technically the approved response though.

Drang said...

Just an observation: If they'd build public ranges, there would be less of this.

Granted, for that to work, it has to be staffed and maintained somehow.

Reese said...

I live in Utah and "fires started by target shooters" is something heard on the news every year. Especially in the area just West of Utah lake (very popular place for open country shooting).

The Governor has threatened to call a special session of the legislature to address the situation, meaning creating "no-shoot" days, or something equally effective.

Personally, I'd like to see the state invest in a large public range in that area, as that would be a win on both sides.

DirtCrashr said...

We can't even use weed-wackers or other power-equipment to clear grass at our range for fear it might skip a stone and spark a fire amid all the serpentine and chert, so the County (which owns the range) hires a guy with a bunch of goats to eat the bramble and dry grass and keep it shorn...

Jeff said...

I flew into Denver from Vegas last week, scary looking stuff out there in CO Springs...

I agree, most people out East of the Mississippi cannot even comprehend how dry things are out west, I'm hoping that we don't have any issues in Vegas this year.

FWIW I've set grass on fire in Michigan with steel core ammo, I know that it wouldn't be a problem in the high desert. Especially if you mix explosives or god forbid a flare and propane into things.

Cybrludite said...

I've managed the feat myself in Mississippi, post Katrina. For those not in the area, a major, major drought followed the storm, so all that snapped timber turned to a metric fuck-ton of tinder.

Firehand said...

Mentioned this to a friend, and he told me about his in-laws: last summer, when it was so bloody hot & dry, they were shooting on their range and a shot smacking into some rocks behind the target started a grass fire. This was jacketed soft-points, no steel-core or tracer; the jacket, at that velocity, did generate a spark hot enough to do it. Barely got it put out before it could spread, and they did no more shooting there until got some rain.

mikelaforge said...

Metric f*#k-ton. So stolen. I remember Fort Hoochie-Quchie back in the '80s. "How come that mountain is on fire?" "8/40th Armor is drilling this weekend".
Mesquite, tumbleweeds, you name it. Looked kinda purty at night from Sorry Vista.

Kristopher said...

Drang: Staffing isn't needed.

The last asshole who tried to dump trash at the Browns Camp range in the Tillamook State forest got beaten up by shooters who were using the unsupervised range.