A Durango man target shooting with incendiary ammunition was found to have started a fire north of Durango that grew to 60 acres near Electra Lake, authorities said Monday.
Scot Davis, spokesman for Durango Fire Protection District, said a man was target shooting on his own property with tracer rounds fired from a 5.56 mm rifle on Friday morning.
However, the man – unaware of the fire potential of tracer rounds – aimed the gun toward a tree while discharging. When the tracer ammunition hit the ground, it ignited a grass fire.
For the past four days, fire crews have battled the wildfire near the 42000 block of U.S. Highway 550, on the east side of the highway in a grassy field. It was a tough spot for fire crews to access as it is surrounded by hills.
As of Monday, the fire had burned 60 acres but wasn’t expected to grow in size. While the fire has not destroyed any structures, it has consumed trees, grass and some fences.
Authorities declined to release the name of the man who started the fire.
Karola Hanks, Durango Fire Protection District fire marshal, said a cost estimate for fighting the fire hasn’t been finalized, but it’s likely the cost will fall on the taxpayers.
“Historically, we have not (gone after recouping costs) unless it was an intentionally set fire,” Hanks said. “In this case, it’s more a lack of knowledge and understanding of what they were doing and what they were using.”
Tracer bullets are typically used in automatic weapons for military purposes. The rounds have a pyrotechnic charge that leaves an illuminated trace of the bullet’s path when fired.
Tracer bullets are not allowed on federal land, but they are legal in Colorado.
Davis said at this point, the only possible recourse for landowners against the man who started the fire would be if they chose to press civil charges.
The burn area is comprised of private, state and federal ownership. Davis said as of Monday, no one has pressed charges against the target shooter.
Efforts to reach several property owners in the area were unsuccessful Monday.