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Target practice sparks small wildfire

Posted: June 19, 2012 - 8:33am  |  Updated: June 19, 2012 - 11:33am
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  David LaForest
David LaForest

Target practice Sunday night ignited a fire in the Soldotna area.

At 8 p.m., Central Emergency Services and the Alaska Division of Forestry responded to Rainbow Drive off of Mackey Lake Road in Soldotna for a report of a wildland fire.

Crews from both agencies surrounded the fire on its sides, fighting the flames inward. They arrived on scene within 10 minutes of receiving the report, which was called in by the people shooting targets. The fire had spread about an acre, said Brad Nelson, CES health and safety officer.

The 11 responders contained the fire to a small circle and extinguished the flames. The total affected area remained less than an acre, but a slower response could have resulted in a larger fire, Nelson said.

When responders arrived, the flames had climbed to the top of trees. A light wind carried some embers causing spot fires, small fires in different locations, Nelson said.

There were no injuries and no structures damaged as a result of the fire.

Despite persistent rainy weather during the past two weeks, the potential for human-caused wild land fires remains high, said Sharon Roesch, Division of Forestry fire prevention officer.

"The surface fuels were still dry enough, even with (40 percent) humidity and light winds," she said. "If the winds were stronger the fire would've carried faster, farther."

In mid-June, fire behavior shifts as trees like black spruce carry flames rather than dead grasses, or ground fuels. A healthy layer of vegetation has grown throughout the Kenai Peninsula and some ground fuels remain, but "tree torching" is more common during this point of the summer, said Roesch.

Camping season is approaching; she advises campers keep water close by to suppress potential fires.

Rainbow drive is a popular spot for target practice, littered with destroyed objects, trash and shell casings. Nelson, however, said there is no record of a similar fire in the area. And Roesch said she was surprised the fire ignited as a result of target practice.

Fires caused by firearms and target practice are scarce, a once or twice a year occurrence, said Nelson.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at

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akdave 06/19/12 - 01:19 pm
Great Job Guys!!

I was one of the first one on scene Sunday night and I gotta say, if CES and Forestry hadn't shown up when they did, or got set up as fast as they did, this fire would still be burning. Great job CES B shift and Soldotna IA Forestry!!

highriskphoto 06/19/12 - 05:26 pm
Illegal target practice

People who like to target practice in that area should be aware that this is illegal and are subject to prosecution for trespassing. It is owned privately and without express written permission it is an illegal act and is regularly patrolled. As a homeowner in the vicinity, I can collectively say on behalf of all of the homeowners here, we are subjected to day and night and all week long the firing of gunshots which travel a great distance. The piles and piles of discarded junk, garbage etc. that are used as targets is not only disgraceful but illegal as well. We have turned in violators and we sit from afar with our binoculars watching so if you're intent on the destruction of private property and the sanctity of the homes around this area beware, the troopers are going to come get you.

MathewCannava 06/20/12 - 03:49 pm
We need to be photographing the offenders

Listening to the folks blasting away out there...rapid semi-auto fire...and then knowing that they don't pick up their brass, they leave junk all over....

They're trespassing (but apparently the owner of the property doesn't care?) and littering.

Whenever I hear them out there now, and I have the time, I'll head out and take photos of them. I hope law enforcement cares enough to do something.

fedupwiththepublic 06/21/12 - 04:39 pm
keep your trash to yourself

If you want to go out and target practice that is well within your rights. But do it on your own property so you are littering up your personal space and not someone elses. Or better yet go to a firing range where it is set up for target practice. Being a lifelong Alaskan I am aware of how COOL it is to go out and shoot at targets. Grew up doing it, but on our own property.

akdave 06/28/12 - 11:57 pm
Land Ownership

Matt - the land that the fire was on is owned by Cook Inlet Region. They probably have no idea, nor care, what's going on in that spot.

I too live in Mackey Lake and can sit and listen to the shooting all the time, especially during moose hunting season. The poaching I suspect that goes on back there must be really high, given the gunfire we can hear.

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