With temperatures climbing and more visitors heading to the Pike and San Isabel National Forest, U.S. Forest Service officials are reminding them of the fire dangers associated with recreation in the forest, including target shooting.
Southern Colorado has already endured a down-range fire. In April, sparks from gunfire at the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex caused a 2,800-acre fire that closed I-25 and prompted pre-evacuation notices.
Dawn Sanchez, a fire prevention technician with the U.S. Forest Service, said not following the several restrictions and rules regarding target shooting could result in a devastating fire.
"We’re seeing rounds into rocks that can spark. We’re seeing just heat from the bullets themselves. Lots of different things when you’re out shooting can start fires," Sanchez said. "Exploding targets are never legal on the national forest. That’s something that’s used very often on the national forest."
Recreational target shooting is allowed in most areas on the national forest. Shooters must be at least 150 yards from any campfire, building or recreation area as a safety precaution.
Additionally, shooters are only allowed to use approved targets while shooting toward a solid earth backdrop. Shooting signs and/or trees is strictly prohibited.
Sanchez said while target shooting is not banned on days with high fire danger, the Forest Service does ask people to seek an alternative.
"So, we do encourage people to wait for days that are not red flag days. Days that are not hot and windy, and go shoot on those days," Sanchez said. "If it’s hot and windy, then we do encourage people to go inside and shoot an an indoor range where it’s a little bit safer."
The Forest Service also asks shooters to be respectful toward the environment and pick up their trash following their time in the forest. Beyond that, as dry conditions continue to grip southern Colorado, Sanchez said everyone visiting the forest — not just target shooters — should be careful with all ignition sources.