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BLM: West Menan Fire burns 434 acres, caused in part by gunfire

On Sunday, Bureau of Land Management and firefighters continue to monitor hot spots in the midst of more than 400 acres of charred public land west of Rexburg.

As the fire dies and crews survey the damage, a partial cause has been determined. The BLM said errant ammunition from gunfire on public land was partly to blame.

“I just don’t think people understand how easy it is to start a brush fire,” said incident commander Nick Moreau.

As hotspots lick patches of brush, Moreau feeds the troops. Dozens of firefighters continued to fight flash points on Sunday, mostly in the dead center of a burn zone stretching across 434 acres.

“It was threatening some structures if it would have crossed this road,” said Moreau, as he drove across the burn zone.

From a butte above the burn zone, the damage is clear. On Sunday, so is the cause. The BLM said folks burning some materials, and shooting guns, likely caused the blaze.

A clearing littered with literally thousands of shotgun shells in the center of the burn zone is a familiar scene. It’s not the same clearing where the fire originated, but it is an example of the litter caused by some sportsmen.

Moreau said stray ammunition – bullets ricocheting off the lava rock – is often the culprit in fire on public land.

But with a tinderbox stretching for miles into the horizon, sparks from errant ammunition isn’t the only thing threatening the sage.

“Most people think just parking in the sagebrush for a minute wouldn’t start it but in some cases that’s all it takes,” said Moreau.

The warm undercarriage of a car can heat the brush just enough to spark a blaze, and with hunting season heating up, the risk is elevated.

“Just be aware that you’re not parking in tall grass or on the shoulder where you could end up starting a brush fire,” said Moreau.

A total 9 federal engines, and 11 county engines from Jefferson and Madison counties fought the West Menan Fire. The fire sparked in Jefferson County, and spread to Madison County.

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