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)

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

Planned upgrades didn’t go as planned

CityWest said a fibre-line break caused outages to all customers

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

BC Timber Sales’ operations on the North Island and Central Coast to be audited

The Forest Practices Board randomly chose the region to check for compliance to legislation

BC Ferries Sailing Cancellations

Prince Rupert - Haida Gwaii - Northern Adventure

Month-long water quality advisory still in effect for Rupert residents

The City of Prince Rupert recommends those with weakened immune systems boil water prior to use

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Vancouver Island family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Most Read