Officials: Target shooters spark Utah wildfire

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two new wildfires have broken out on national forest lands in Utah, including one caused by target shooting that can’t be banned on tinder-dry public lands because of Second Amendment rights, authorities said Monday.

Gunmen started the fire late Sunday at the base of Millville Canyon in the Logan area. It spread to a Utah wildlife management area for elk and deer and to the surrounding Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Target shooting continues to spark fires, despite a recent federal and state ban on steel-shelled bullets that give off sparks, state fire marshal Brent Halladay said. Sportsmen are supposed to use lead or copper bullets instead.

With steel bullets, “You might just go up there and strike a match,” Halladay said.

The wildfire is the 21st in Utah caused by target shooting this year.

Utah lawmakers reaffirmed Second Amendment rights in 2008 with a measure saying no authority can ban the possession or use of firearms on public or private lands, except for poaching offenses, Halladay said.

Legislators are certain to revisit that law in one of Utah’s worst fire seasons, he said.

“I’ve been in the business for four decades, and this is the worst year I’ve seen by far,” he said.

The fire started by the gunfire was 20 percent contained about a half-mile from Millville but didn’t threaten houses, officials said.

In southern Utah, evacuations were ordered as the 500-acre Shingle fire threatened about 100 cabins inside Dixie National Forest, about 30 miles southeast of Cedar City.

Authorities requested more crews and managers for that fire. It’s unknown what caused the blaze that broke out Sunday.

Elsewhere in Utah:

– The 20,000-acre Seeley fire was 10 percent contained as dry thunderheads and unpredictable winds kicked up flames and poured heavy smoke on Price, a coal-mining town of more than 8,000 people about 20 miles away, fire spokeswoman Jonetta Trued said.

Scores of firefighters, 19 engines and eight helicopters were attacking the Seeley fire, which has idled two coal mines. The fire has stripped more than 31 square miles of dense, overgrown stands of beetle-killed spruce in Manti-LaSal National Forest.

– Utah’s largest wildfire has consumed 155 square miles, destroying one summer house and threatening 75 others. Hundreds of firefighters are trying to keep the Clay Springs fire from advancing on the ranching towns of Oak City, Scipio and Mills on the edge of Utah’s west desert. It was 48 percent contained Monday.

– Two other fires are burning in Duchesne County. The 6,000-acre Church Camp fire near the Carbon County line was 55 percent contained while making runs in two directions. Farther north, the 2,000-acre Pole Creek fire was 75 percent contained and burning timber and grass with no structures threatened.

– The 22,000-acre Wolf Den fire near the Colorado line was 5 percent contained.

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