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

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.

B.C. wildfires 2017

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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)

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)

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)

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

Just Posted

The Smithers District Chamber of Commerce coveted Alpine Man Statue for winners of the 2020 Community and Business Awards Nov 25. (contributed photo)
Smithers Feed Store named Business of the Year

Chamber of Commerce Community and Business Awards handed out in virtual ceremony via Zoom

The Terrace River Kings lost 9-3 to the Quesnel Kangaroos on Mar. 2, 2019 in the final CIHL playoffs. (Lindsay Chung Photo)
Central Interior Hockey League cancels 2020/21 season

League open to playing exhibition games if possible

Questions around rail safety, firefighter safety, cleanup near the rail yards and tracks, whistle cessation, etc were raised during the RDBN meeting with CN. (File photo)
Regional district frustrated with CN response to grievances

‘A lot of our concerns are still not being heard,’: Houston mayor Shane Brienen

Skiers and snowboarders enjoy the fresh, fluffy snow at Fernie Alpine Resort.
Ski hill scheduled to open Dec. 4

Hudson Bay Mountain Resort will open without its usual contingent of international workers

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Most Read