County Considers Target Shooting Ban During Times of Wildfire Danger (Updated)

Earthstone fire in 2017. Image: Ty O'Neil.
Earthstone fire in 2017. Image: Ty O’Neil.

UPDATE (July 10, 2018): The board approved the measure. It will go to the D.A.’s office for drafting and then back to the board for approval. Commissioner Jeanne Hermann voted against proceeding with the new ordinance.

The Washoe Board of County Commissioners is scheduled tomorrow to hear an agenda item that could ban target shooting during times of wildfire danger.

If the item is passed by commissioners, a request to the District Attorney’s office will be made to draft an ordinance for consideration at a later meeting. Commissioners meet tomorrow at the county complex on Ninth Street and Wells Avenue at 10 a.m.

“Increasingly in the summer months, conditions within Washoe County become ripe for fire starts associated with target shooting,” according to county staff. “Numerous fires have been started across the Western U.S. from target shooting, costing millions of dollars to suppress.”

The ordinance will allow the county manager and Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Fire Chief to define which areas in the county would be off limits to target shooting.

Federal agencies already have the ability to restrict target shooting on federally managed lands.

High Fire Danger

TMFPD issued today a warning of high fire danger this week. Lightning is in the forecast for Wednesday through Friday.

“We strongly encourage our residents to refrain from any activity that could spark a wildfire, to include target shooting,” said Fire Chief Charles Moore. “We continue to respond to calls to smoke and brushfires are caused from illegal burning.”

Moore said that target shooting is the suspected cause of at least two brush fires that occurred over the weekend.

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Moore added: “If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Look for shelter inside a home, large building, or a hard-topped vehicle right away. Do not go under trees for shelter. There is no place outside that is safe during a thunder and lightning storm.”

While most wildfires are human-caused, wildfires can also be started by vehicle sparks, campfires, heavy equipment, and cigarettes.

One government research study in 2013 indicated that “fires can be ignited by hot fragments of the bullets due to the heat generated when the kinetic energy of the lead, copper, or steel is transformed to thermal energy by plastic deformation and fracturing from the high-strain rates during impact. Lead has a lower melting point than copper or steel, which contributes to the lower (probability of ignition) of lead core bullets.”

The Firearms Industry Trade Association agreed that “wildfires have many possible causes, and during dry and hot weather conditions shooters’ use of certain ammunition and targets could accidentally ignite a wildfire.”

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Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.

1 Comment

  1. I don’t know why this isn’t already an ordinance on the books. Having said that, it probably won’t do any good. Shooters will shoot. But they need to be held accountable for the destruction they cause…

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