Exploding target shooters blamed for Goat Fire

PATEROS — People using exploding targets caused the Goat Fire, a wildfire that burned nearly 7,400 acres and threatened communications towers near Pateros last fall.

Two other fires in North Central Washington last year were also ignited by people firing at exploding targets, Forest Service officials said in October.

They included a 120-acre blaze in Mud Creek near Entiat and a quarter-acre fire on Deadman Hill near Cashmere. Both of those firest started on Oct. 7, and were contained the same day. A spokesman for the Wenatchee Complex fires said officials identified different target shooters as being responsible for starting both fires. The forest Service was investigating, and no official cause has yet been released. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reviewing the U.S. Forest Service investigation into the Goat Fire, said Forest Service spokesman Tom Knappenberger.

He said criminal charges could be filed later.

Anyone convicted of igniting the blaze could also be required to pay for suppression costs and other damages.

Exploding targets are stationary targets that, when shot from a distance, appear to explode in a puff of smoke.

Some hunters say the targets cannot ignite a fire because they have no residual heat or flame to cause a spark. The website of a company that produces them also says they do not cause fires, but cautioned users not to use them on federal land while burning restrictions were in place.

Knappenberger said the Forest Service is reviewing its regulations on the use of exploding targets on federal land. “They’re kind of a new thing,” he said.

The Goat Fire burned mostly on Forest Service land, but also charred some private property and Bureau of Land Management land.

Emergency service towers, cellular phone towers, local television broadcast equipment, and buried power lines were threatened in the fire that burned from Sept. 15 until Nov. 9.