Bullet remnants found near the metal target. (Freedom of Information request)

Bullet fragment likely caused 2017 wildfire that destroyed northern B.C. homes: FOI

Chief fire information officer says firearms ignitions have become more common

Documents obtained by the 100 Mile Free Press reveal what many South Cariboo residents may have already suspected: A wildfire that damaged homes in 2017 was sparked by gunfire at a shooting range.

The Gustafsen wildfire took off on July 6, 2017 and grew to 5,700 hectares, prompting mass evacuations, highway closures and air quality warnings during one of B.C.’s worst fire seasons until it was finally contained on July 24.

READ MORE: Cariboo-Chilcotin economy lost $23 million in first five weeks of 2017 wildfires

The ignition area was determined to be a metal shooting target set up in the grass, with litter such as paper and wood scattered around.

“Observations made from within a grid search of the ignition area indicated recent firearms activity, such as bullets and fragmented bullet remnants,” read a Wildfire Origin and Cause report from the BC Wildfire Service, obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

“The igniting object is likely a hot fragment of metal.”

The report cited a study on wildfire ignition that found the temperature of bullet fragments can exceed 800 C, and that the average ignition temperature of forest fuels ranges from 260 C to 315 C.

Authorities continue to investigate culpability.

In an emailed response to questions, chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek told the 100 Mile Free Press that firearms do not commonly cause wildfires, though it’s become more frequent in recent years, mainly because of the use of exploding targets and target shooting “in certain areas with certain firearms.”

In 2016, the wildfire service recorded one ignition from firearms, Skrepnek said. That went up to six in both 2017 and 2018. So far this year, there has been one.

Restricting the use of guns would be hard to enforce, he added. Officials use signs and other educational material on the responsible use of firearms and the potential to start fires.

RELATED: 100 Mile resident remembers having to leave home during 2017 wildfires

“We urge backcountry users and recreational enthusiasts to use caution during wildfire seasons and hot and dry conditions,” Skrepnek said in the email. “Backcountry closures may be implemented during increased fire danger in order to prevent human-caused wildfires.”

Anyone with information is asked to report it to 1-877-855-3222.

READ MORE: Young parents’ dream turns to nightmare in Gustafsen wildfire


newsroom@100milefreepress.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Bullet found at the north end of the middle lane. It was collected because it was the same colour as the bullet remnants collected near the target. (Freedom of Information request)

The ignition area of the Gustafsen wildfire including a metal firearms target that appeared to have been recently hit by bullets. The area was grid searched. (Freedom of Information request)

An aerial view of the Gustafsen wildfire near 100 Mile House on the date of ignition, July 6, 2017. (BC Wildfire Service)

Just Posted

West Kootenay traffic officers catch 21 impaired drivers Saturday

Checks in Nelson, Castlegar and Trail were set up as part of a national enforcement campaign

Castlegar man denied bail in trafficking case

Bradley Morehouse is accused of trafficking narcotics after RCMP executed two search warrants

Overnight warming centre opening in Castlegar

Facility will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. when the temperature dips below -5 degrees.

CP Holiday Train headed to Castlegar

The festive food bank fundraiser will take place December 12.

Castlegar Holiday Happenings

Plenty to do to celebrate the season!

China hints at national security trials for 2 Canadians detained for one year

The two Canadians’ detention is largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei exec

B.C. seaplane company set to test the first commercial electronic plane

The plane is powered by a 750 horsepower electric motor

Fireballs to fill the sky Friday for brightest meteor shower of the year

Geminid meteor shower features colourful, brighter, longer shooting stars

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Most Read