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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Firefighters put out three wildfires in the past four days on the west side of Utah Lake. It signals an early alert for fire season, and a reminder for target shooters.
The foothills west of the lake have been popular for target and clay pigeon shooting for years. For the most part, law enforcement authorities and the sportsmen themselves say the shooters are responsible. But grass in the area is extremely dry so fire danger is high.
When Pat Buchanan and Blake Orullian shoot clay pigeons west of the lake, they're careful not to endanger other people. They're also careful not to shoot at dry brush and bare rocks where a spark may start a fire, and they think about wildfire containment.
We're "making sure that (the possibility of starting a wildfire) can be minimized, for safety purposes. Not only that, (but that) it can be put out and extinguished immediately," Buchanan told KSL News Tuesday.
That's critical here, in a place where gunfire rings out all day. Jason Curry with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, says hundreds of target shooters visit the area daily.
"We could have anywhere from 100 to 200 cars in any given time," Curry said.
Target shooters sparked fires Friday, Saturday and Monday. One scorched 23 acres before fire crews put it out.
"On a day like today, when the conditions are windy (and) the grass is really dry, target shooting can definitely start a fire," Curry said Tuesday.
At the base of that 23-acre fire, remnants of clay pigeons are visible. Fortunately, the people who started the fire stuck around and took responsibility.
Rules are posted, but it's up to the target shooters to reduce the risk.
"I don't shoot in brush. I shoot in mounds of dirt," target shooter Alex Malone said.
The state also recommends keeping a shovel on hand and extra water to extinguish a fire. "People just need to be aware that fire is a possibility," Curry said.
Right now, there's no discussion of restricting shooting in that area.
Last month, a school group taking water samples by the lake had to take cover when they found themselves downrange from some target shooters. But the Utah County Sheriff's Office says that kind of incident is very rare.