SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (ABC 4 News) - At least three fires across Utah in the last few weeks were sparked by target shooters. The Millville Canyon Fire in Cache County marks the latest. Now, federal and state agencies are taking aim at the shooters, telling them they need to pay up.
The cost of fighting fires is astronomical, reaching into the millions when you take into account the firefighters, retardant, aircraft, engines, and ground crews. "It's not uncommon to spend a million dollars a day," says BLM State Fire Management Officer, Sheldon Wimmer.
Hot shot crews from Alaska, Arizona, California, and Oregon are in Utah helping fight the fires. The cost to pay them alone can be staggering, says Wimmer. "When you get them out on the fireline you have to take care of their needs, feed them, shower them. The support functions add up dramatically."
If the BLM determines a fire was started negligently, as in the case of target shooters, they will go after the person's homeowners insurance. However, the amount they get back never comes close to covering the total cost of the fire. "The rest of the cost is eaten by the taxpayer, whether it's through federal or state taxes," says Wimmer.
Taypayers in Utah are upset over the cost of the fires, and they're concerned about the final bill once fire season ends. "I think there's always going to be a segment of the population that does not think the rules apply to them. There should be some penalty for the damage and heartache these people have caused," says local attorney John Heath.
BLM investigators say they are going after the target shooters who started the Dump Fire in Saratoga Springs two weeks ago. The cost of fighting that fire, so far, totals three million dollars.