If someone shouts “Fire!” at a crowded shooting range, grab a bucket!
One environmental impact not discussed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s benign assessment of the proposed Rapid City shooting range north of Ellsworth Air Force Base is wildfire. Stray gunfire at the Spearfish shooting range started a grass fire Saturday:
It grew in size quickly up the steep hill behind the target stands amid strong winds.
The charred grass appeared to be more isolates to the left side of the range, behind the 100-yard, rifle portion of the range.
Fire crews and flames could be seen after sundown on the hillside above the range.
…George King, administrator of the Spearfish Rifle & Trap Club Facebook page, said the fire was likely the result of either a ricochet, rooting of tracer rounds, or the deliberate shooting of rocks on the slope behind the target stand [Mark Watson, “Fire at Spearfish Rifle, Pistol Range Driven in Strong Winds,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2022.09.25].
Knuckleheads caused a similar, smaller fire at the Spearfish shooting range in November 2020:
Around 4:11 p.m., it was reported that two individuals were seen on the pistol side of the range shooting up into the hillside, which sparked two small fires.
Spearfish Fire Department responded and were able to contain the spread to less than 1/10th an acre. Rimrock in the area helped limit the spread of the fire uphill.
17 personnel, five engines, and one water tender responded, with the fire contained around 5:20 p.m. and controlled by 5:45 p.m. By 11:50 a.m. on Monday, the fire was “officially out” [Darsha Nelson, “Spearfish Firefighters Contain Small Grassfire at Spearfish Rifle Range,” KNBN, 2020.11.09].
Remember: every additional wildfire pulls firefighters out to the field for hours and reduces their ability to respond to other emergencies, like the kitchen fire that shut down Cheyenne Crossing last weekend. Given that 91.8% of South Dakota’s firefighters are volunteers who are in short supply, you’d think Meade County and the state might want to include firefighting costs in their assessment of the impact of the Rapid City shooting range on the Black Hills.