Counties differ on including gunfire in fire restrictions

PARK COUNTY, Colo. -- Of all the wildfires burning across Colorado so far this year, at least three have been caused by gunfire: the 358 Fire near Durango, the Gun Range Fire in Park County, and most recently the Lake Christine Fire in Eagle County. Investigators say that one was caused by tracer bullets at a gun range.

Now counties starting to include bans on gunfire in it’s restrictions. Each county is unique, and has different factors that build into why and how they implement these bans. For Park County, the Sheriff sets what’s on the running burn ban. This week target or recreational shooting was added.

“We've had so many incidents involving the Harris Park shooting range,” said Sheriff Fred Wegener. “We had two fires there, I've had other fires within my county, we just don't have a really good sense that people are gonna be doing this responsibility and it's just too dry during the burn ban.”

Not every county is following suit. Out of the 11 counties impacted by wildfires currently burning in the state, La Plata, Teller, Eagle, Park, Huerfano and Garfield all have some sort of gunfire restriction. Those restrictions can be viewed here.

Some counties have gunfire banned on public land, but not on private land, like Custer County.

“If there are other issues that are coming up we would change some things,” said Vice Chair of Custer County Commissioners Bill Canda. “Right now we view that as a very low probability of impacting this county. We are agricultural based. We have a ‘Right to Ranch’ resolution that was put into effect long ago and there are reasons a rancher would need to use a firearm.”

To make matters even more complicated, most of these counties have National Forests within it’s jurisdiction. Forest Services set it’s own set of fire restrictions, and while counties work hard to coordinate with Forest Services on timing and what is on the list, sometimes it doesn’t exactly line up.

“Different management requirements on federal lands and so their enactment of their stage two may not be exactly as our stage two and they're pretty darn close,” said Grand County Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer. “We do our best to answer any of the questions the public may have.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife have shut down seven gun ranges as a result of wildfires burning across the state. The Problem Solvers reached out to several counties about why they aren’t including gun restrictions in their resolutions, and will update this story as we hear back.

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