SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah officials were deciding Tuesday how to impose a ban on target shooting and other restrictions in some rural areas because of extreme fire risk.
State forester Dick Buehler is expected to issue new rules within days for the fire season and was huddling with local authorities on Tuesday before making his move.
Buehler was authorized on Monday by Gov. Gary Herbert and legislative leaders to ban shooting, targets that explode on impact and possibly other activities in areas he deems at risk of fire.
For weeks, state officials have said they were powerless to ban gun use on public lands because of Second Amendment rights, but legislative leaders said they found an obscure state law that empowers the state forester to act in an emergency.
With target shooters causing the 21st wildfire in Utah on Sunday, state leaders decided enough was enough.
“The Second Amendment is a right to keep and bear arms. We’re saying you can keep and bear arms and use them if you’re attacked by a bear or in an assault,” Senate President Michael Waddoups said Tuesday. “But you still have to use your weapons wisely. You can’t shoot anything you want.”
Waddoups said he believes most of the wildfires started by target shooters involved steel-jacketed bullets, which were recently banned on state and federal lands in Utah. Officials are telling sportsmen to use lead bullets that don’t give off sparks when they hit rocks.
A wildfire was ignited by two men using steel-jacketed bullets in target practice Sunday at the base of Millville Canyon in the Logan area, Cache County Fire Marshal Jason Winn said Tuesday.
The 108-acre fire spread to a Utah wildlife management area for elk and deer, and to the surrounding Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. About 40 firefighters were expected to have it fully contained by late Tuesday.
Yet another wildfire was sparked by target shooting Tuesday in Nevada. The blaze broke out at a White Pine County shooting range and damaged power lines between Ely and McGill.
In all, at least 10 major wildfires are burning across Utah. The fastest-growing wildfire was ignited by sparks from the muffler of an all-terrain vehicle – the kind of activity Buehler is authorized to control.
The Shingle fire exploded to more than 8,000 acres after a single day of burning and was zero percent contained late Tuesday. It threatened 550 cabins or summer homes and 300 other structures inside Dixie National Forest, about 30 miles southeast of Cedar City.
“The fire came right up to the back doors of many cabins,” Shingle fire spokesman Mark Wilkening said Tuesday. Crews beat back the flames at the Swains Creek subdivision.
Fire investigators haven’t caught up with the ATV or its owner, but were able to reconstruct the cause by examining ATV tracks found off a dirt road, he said.