Evacuations Lifted in Gate Fire

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May 22, 2017 (DULZURA) Cal-Fire has lifted the evacuation orders and warnings from the Gate Fire that started on Saturday.  They covered the Pio Pico Campground where it was mandatory and remained such after the fire had long passed due to infrastructure damage. There were about 75 residences in the Dulzura area that also had warnings in place.

The fire is seventy-five percent contained and is holding at 2.056 acres. Lower temperature and higher humidities are helping firefighting efforts. Also, due to the video posted on Instagram by a user, from around the shooting range showing the start of the fire, this is now a criminal investigation.

We need to ask a few questions though. This is not the first fire that starts at that or near that shooting range. These are the guidelines from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on using these ranges across the state, not just Dulzura.

  • Cross-country travel is not permitted outside of OHV Open Area boundaries, so please stay on designated routes.
  • Never shoot from or over any road or highway.
  • Always use a safe backdrop.
  • Glass and exploding targets are prohibited.
  • Do not use plastic pellets, tracer rounds, exploding rounds, or steel-core rounds.
  • Do not attach targets to plants or place targets against rocks, plants, or solid objects.  It is illegal to deface or destroy trees, signs, outbuildings, or other objects on federal lands.
  • Carry in your targets and carry out all litter, brass and shell casings.  All targets, shell casings, debris and trash must be removed.

These ranges are not improved in any way. Partly because of the cost, and partly due to the nature of federal lands, However, given that this is not the first time we have a fire start up, and BLM already closes these during fire season, which incidentally we are already in, why wasn’t it closed Saturday? Humidities were in the teens after sun up in Poway. It was expected to be a hot, dry day.

Alternatively, why not improve them with catchment walls? This will prevent a bullet striking a rock, sparking and off to the races we go? Perhaps clear the brush? Essentially create defensible space? That would reduce the opportunities for a fire startup. This is not a minor concern. Just in 2011 we had at least 10 fires started by target shooting, according to the LA Times. The Laguna Fire in 2014 started near a gun range. It was dubbed the “Gunfire” for a reason.

Then there are the targets used. According to Wildfire Today, starting in 2011 civilians started using exploding targets in the backcountry. They are popular in California, incidentally.

Targets that are designed to explode when shot with a rifle have become more popular in recent years, emerging as an increasing threat to our wildlands. The problem is, they sometimes start fires in spite of claims by the manufacturers saying they are safe.

The military has been using them for at least 20 years when training marksmen to hit targets hundreds of yards away, since it can be difficult to see if a target was hit at that distance. When struck with the bullet from a rifle, the explosion and smoke are easily seen and indicate that the shooter hit the target

Knowing how dry and ready to go things were, if those targets were used, that is a problem,

Now on the bright side, Saturday, as dry and windy as it was, much of our Manzanita is still somewhat green. We knew because of the really dark smoke. Two months from now that will not be the case.

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