• Related
SAN DIEGO -- Firefighting officials urged back-country target gun owners Monday to be careful while target shooting, which has been blamed for sparking a series of San Diego-area brush fires in recent months.

So far this year, sparks from recreational shooters' bullets have started 10 blazes in the county, as compared with just two during all of 2010, Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler said.

Authorities are seeking a total of about $253,750 in emergency-services cost restitution from the responsible parties in connection with five of this year's fires.

"If you don't know where your bullet is going and you cause a fire," said Cal Fire's Mike Mohler, "we consider it negligent and you can be held liable."

At the points of origin of several of the blazes, investigators have found two kinds of rounds -- a Russian-made model and another type used in an M4 carbine.

"The similarity of these is that they are either steel-tipped or steel- cored bullets, which can cause fires when they strike rocks or come apart,'' Mohler said.

Authorities are calling on target shooters to carefully survey prospective locations for brush clearance and check behind targets to see where the rounds may end up.

Three of the fires that broke out as a result of bullets were in Santee, Bee Canyon, and near a fire range in east county. The largest was 135 acres. Mohler says the heat from the bullet can ignite a flame if it collides with a rock or dry weeds.

"Bullets will travel hundreds of yards depending on the weapon," Mohler explained. "And then it'll travel to inaccessible areas."

Mohler says it's legal to practice on certain state and federal land only. However, he encourages recreational shooters to use shooting ranges.

Dennis Rohman of P2K Range in El Cajon says his back lot is free of debris and weeds.

"Being in a controlled space allows you to contain everything that needs to be done," said Rohman.

Cal Fire says the summer is getting hotter and with windy weather approaching it's imperative recreational shooters take this advice.

"It is important to always be aware of current weather conditions prior to these types of activities and plan your activities around cooler times of the day with higher humidities,'' the fire captain said.