Temperatures pushing 100. Dry winds. Vegetation parched after an arid winter and record-setting spring heat. Add the stupidity of some humans, and you have a recipe for a wildfire season with horrific potential for destruction.
State and federal officials have outlawed fires and fireworks on all public land and unincorporated private land. A long list of municipalities have also banned those activities. But officials can do nothing to prevent irresponsible hotshots from putting all Utahns at risk by firing guns out in the brush. Target shooters sparked a blaze near Saratoga Springs that has sent 1,300 residents fleeing from their homes and so far has scorched 1,600 acres. Two hundred firefighters are still battling that fire. It is the 20th this year caused by firearms use.
Conservative Utah legislators, in their usual frenzy to protect the all-important right to keep and shoot guns, have dictated that no state officials other than themselves can "enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation or rule pertaining to firearms." Cities can, and should, limit shooting to approved ranges. Provo has limited shooting to indoor ranges.
But the folly of the law prohibiting agencies such as the State Division of Forestry from imposing limits is already evident. In this dangerously dry year, shooter-caused fires have already reached the total for all of 2010. ...
- Utah wildfire forces 8,000 residents out of their homes - Salt Lake Tribune (7:30 p.m. MDT Friday)
... Two shooters sparked the blaze, named for a landfill popular with target shooters, late Thursday afternoon, said Jason Curry of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. They tried unsuccessfully to put it out, then called 911. Curry said there was no evidence of wrongdoing and charges would not be filed.
Of the 400 wildfires in Utah so far this year, 380 have been human-caused, said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
"That’s silly. We can do better than that as Utahns," he said, calling on shooters to "self-regulate," since legislation bars sheriff’s officials from regulating firearms. A special legislative session may be called to address that, Herbert said.
"A lot of the problem we have out here is a lack of common sense," he said, asking local communities to consider banning fireworks during the hot, dry summer ahead.
- A call for caution and common sense in dry fire season - Gov. Gary Herbert