BLM: People who started wildfire could be liable for suppression costs

The BLM says people were shooting guns in the area when the fire ignited.

SAND HOLLOW, IDAHO - Fire investigators say people shooting guns with lead bullets caused a wildfire that blackened 266 acres near Sand Hollow Sunday afternoon.

The blaze burned one home to the ground, several out buildings and two semi-trailers.

The burned area is on both federal and private land.

The Bureau of Land Management tells KTVB while it’s not illegal to shoot guns on federal land, it is illegal to shoot at metal because that can create sparks, and you need to be extremely careful.

Keri Steneck with the BLM says it's a common misconception that only steel core ammunition can cause fires.


“They have done several studies that you can get multiple fires from any and all ammunition, this one in particular was a lead-based bullet,” said Steneck.

And to avoid sparking a fire when shooting, Steneck says you need to be prepared.

“They need to have a shovel, they need to have water, and be prepared, have a cell phone so you can call firefighters and we can get there faster,” she said.

And for anyone living in an area where there's a lot of open space, Steneck say it's a good idea to design landscaping that would help protect your home.

“You have to have that survivable space, that is absolutely paramount,” she said.

It's likely what saved Cheryl Wells’ house.

“That is very important, that green grass that stopped the fire,” said Wells.

And Wells helped too. As soon as she noticed the fire outside her window she ran outside and grabbed a hose.

“I just kept working outside, spraying and then the water went off, and the firemen came and they started helping me, I got my shovel and started throwing dirt on things that was still smoking,” said Wells.

“They had to put me in the ambulance to see if my lungs were OK, there was so much smoke coming at me and I was just covered in black soot.”

Wells’ home was spared but her pump house wasn't, which has now left her temporarily without water or power.

Despite the loss, Wells says she's just grateful she could save her dogs.

The homeowners down the road weren't so lucky.

“They must not have been home because they would have got the dogs out. The firemen came out, one kennel was in the grass with the dogs and they got them out, the other was dry and the fire got them. It was so sad." said Wells.

We weren't able to speak with homeowner whose house burned down.

As for the people who started the fire by shooting guns, Steneck says they will likely be on the hook for the fire suppression costs.

She also said it's unclear what they were doing with the guns, whether it was target shooting or something else.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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