Exploding targets to be banned on Rocky Mountain Forest Service land

Some Colorado wildfires started by targets

DENVER - Exploding targets will be prohibited in the Rocky Mountain Forest Service area, according to a forest service spokesman.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado said Sunday it would hold a joint news conference Monday with U.S.F.S. officials to announce the prohibition, which is called a "major closure order."

"It's called a closure, but it's an order -- it's a type of order the Forest Service uses, but it's just a prohibition, not like closing an area," said Chris Strebig, with the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

"Exploding targets are a documented cause of wildfires, and have been associated with at least five wildfires on National Forest System lands since 2012, resulting in more than 15,600 acres burned and approximately $30 million in suppression costs," said Sarah Levy, Forest Service spokeswoman for the Pacific Northwest Region in Portland in an earlier media release announcing a ban on the devices.

Pacific Northwest Region officials banned all exploding targets year-round from national forest lands in Washington and Oregon last month.

Fire investigators have said they suspect exploding targets sparked at least a half-dozen wildfires in Washington and Idaho over the past year.

"We're looking at a similar thing as what they did in Washington and Oregon here, and we'll talk about specifics (Monday)," Stebig told 7NEWS reporter Jaclyn Allen on Sunday. 

Stebig said wildfires in Colorado have been started by exploding targets. The cost of suppressing these fires can go up into the millions of dollars.

The devices are sometimes referred to as “binary exploding targets”, since they are completely inert until two powders are mixed by the target shooter. After the powders are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

"The Forest Service is working to clarify and better define existing regulations that impact the use of exploding targets on national forest system lands," said Larry Chambers, Forest Service media relations officer in Washington, D.C. last month.

It might be several weeks before agency officials react on a national basis, he said at the time.

The Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service includes parts Wyoming, Colorado, parts of Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. 

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