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Fire sparked by target shooter torches 225 acres near Saratoga Springs

A brush fire burns on Lake Mountain near Saratoga Springs on Sunday, June 11, 2017.
A brush fire burns on Lake Mountain near Saratoga Springs on Sunday, June 11, 2017.
McKell Farrer Hartle

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Firefighters contained a fast-moving fire sparked by a target shooter late Sunday, but not before the blaze torched approximately 225 acres.

The blaze at the base of Little Mountain began about 9 p.m. Sunday, Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Jess Campbell said, prompting a response from about 80 firefighters from several jurisdictions.

The fire was fully contained Monday, and Campbell hopes crews will have it extinguished by noon Tuesday.

That goal is dependent on weather, Campbell noted, as high winds posed a challenge Monday, but the possibility of precipitation could help crews fight the flames.

The target shooter responsible for the blaze reported the fire to police and waited at the scene for officials, Campbell said. It is believed the shooter was using "tracer rounds," which have an incendiary effect to make their trajectory visible when fired.

Investigators are working to discover the exact ignition point of the fire and determine whether or not the shooter was within Saratoga Springs city limits at the time, Campbell said. The department will review whether to seek financial damages from the shooter.

"My word of caution or recommendation is, if you're target shooting, seek legitimate gun ranges," Campbell said. Even with no structures damaged, "(fires) are extremely expensive to combat and it's quite a burden on all the taxpayers, not to mention the safety and dangers to people's property and firefighters' lives."

Crews kept fire trucks positioned by homes in a nearby subdivision in case the flames shifted, Campbell said, but ultimately the area was never threatened. However, firefighters had to take quick action to cut off the fire before it reached a warehouse for Dyno Nobel, an explosives manufacturer.

"We ended up having to get some crews on their property and cut a fence to get access to the area that was actively burning and quickly approaching," the chief said. "We were able to prevent it pretty much at their property line."

Meanwhile, firefighters in Salt Lake City were faced with a fire of their own at the same time Sunday night. Salt Lake fire spokeswoman Audra Sorenson said the brush fire burned a strip over a mile long through a field near Indiana Avenue and 2700 West.

Crews had the blaze contained by about 11:30 p.m., and crews kept watch until 1:15 a.m. to ensure nothing flared up again, Sorenson said. Between 40 and 50 firefighters were dispatched as a preventative measure in case the flames spread.

The cause of the fire was unknown, Sorenson said, and the main challenge fighting the flames was getting access to it, as firefighters ultimately cut a fence and drove their trucks into the field to reach the fire.

While minimal damage was done, Sorenson said even a slight shift in the wind could have caused "a real disaster."

"If conditions were different it could have been really scary," Sorenson said. "The lesson here is that this is not the time of year to be frivolous at all."

Orther fires burned across Utah. On the Idaho border, a blaze near Portage was mostly contained Monday afternoon and did not threaten any buildings. Crews relocated some cows that were grazing nearby, Box Elder County said in a prepared statement.

And in Cedar City, winds stoked a five-acre fire that gutted old farm buildings and an empty corral but did not cause any injuries to people or livestock, Cedar City Patrol Sergeant Jerry Womack said in a prepared statement.

In Vernal, a blaze that closed roads Friday was all but extinguished. The fire was 90 percent contained Monday afternoon, U.S. Forest Service officers reported.

Contributing: Annie Knox.