CHADRON – The U-S Forest Service says Sunday’s 3.7-acre Spotted Tail Fire about 5 miles south of Chadron was caused by a shooter using an exploding target, a practice currently banned by a Forest Service regional fire restriction order.
Pine Ridge District Ranger Tim Buskirk says to make things worse, the guilty party or parties left the scene without reporting the fire. Fortunately, it was spotted by someone else and a combination of Chadron VFD and Forest Service crews were able to contain it in less than 3 hours.
Buskirk says the Spotted Tail Fire is the second in recent years in that area caused by exploding targets with both coming during an order covering the 5 states of Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, and Kansas.
He says while shooting is allowed under the order, the use of incendiary devices – including exploding targets – is strictly banned because they can – and obviously do – start wildfires, a major threat in the Spotted Tail area because it’s close to several residences.
Using exploding targets on National Forest lands can result in 6 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine with the responsible party facing the possibility of a felony conviction and restitution for the entire costs of battling a resulting fire.
Buskirk says the Forest Service is currently investigating the Spotted Tail Fire and has gathered evidence from the fire scene as well as statements from multiple witnesses, and he encourages anyone with information to contact the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands Headquarters in Chadron
Buskirk says the Forest Service welcomes people to recreate on public lands, but reminds them it’s important to do so responsibly – especially at a time like this when the fire danger is very high.
That’s why the agency is asking users of the forests and grasslands to be careful with fire, keep their vehicles on designated roads, and be smart when target shooting.