State leaders warn of wildfire danger posed by target shooting

Gov. Cox says he’ll work with legislative leaders to determine the best course of action

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Governor Spencer Cox and interagency fire leadership ask everyone in Utah this summer to change their behaviors when outside, as they launch “Fire Sense”, a public service campaign designed to educate the public and empower them to make fire sense decisions that will drive down the number of human-caused wildfires. Gathered in City Creek Canyon on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, leadership launched a messaging campaign pinpointing how 100% of the state is in drought, with 90% of the state in extreme drought.

Nearly two dozen state leaders, including Gov. Spencer Cox, issued a stark warning Saturday about the wildfire danger posed by target practice during the severe drought gripping the state.

“We ask you to please be mindful as you consider where, when, and whether to shoot. High winds, dry conditions, hot temperatures, rocks and other circumstances may require you to responsibly decide to wait for better conditions or another day,” read the joint statement.

Bullet fragments from target shooting are hot enough to start a wildfire, as could a spark from a ricochet.

“Target shooting is an enjoyable activity, and we understand how frustrating this can be,” continued the statement. “We do not want to put at risk first responders and our wild spaces when we literally can prevent forest fires.”

Over 90 percent of the state is experiencing an extreme drought this year, and Gov. Spencer Cox is urging residents to “change behavior” to avoid what could be one of the worst fire seasons in state history. As of Saturday, there had been 341 fires across Utah. 296 of those were human-caused.

This week the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources temporarily banned campfires and recreational target shooting on its 146 wildlife management areas due to the increased risk of wildfire.

A spokesperson for Gov. Cox says Cox is weighing options on how best to address the situation.

“He will be meeting with legislative leaders to discuss what more can be done,” they said.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, says he’s not in favor of a ban right now.

“We’re in a drought and everyone knows the critical nature of being responsible,” he said. “I think we have to be a little careful with all-out bans because there are ways for people to celebrate and to be responsible. The key will be trying to find that balance.”