Alpine, Utah -- Crews are getting closer to completely putting out the Water Tower Fire in Alpine, and investigators released the cause Monday afternoon.
Shayne Ward, a Public Information Officer for the Utah Division of Forestry, said it was a .50 caliber bullet that started the 397-acre fire, now 25 percent contained. The bullet struck a rock, but it was not a spark that caused the fire. Ward said the sheer heat of the bullet ignited the flame. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of shell casings and bullets near the origin of the fire, which one Alpine city council member said is part of the problem.
“There’s a trail that goes right up along the border of the city property which is Lambert Park and the designated wilderness," said council member Troy Stout. "The only thing that separates the two properties is a very small fence."
He said it is legal to shoot on the public land, but that does not mean people should, especially because "there's an endangerment to the community and now a fire hazard." Stout said many people recreate in the area and use the surrounding trails. One stray bullet could cause a bad accident, like the wildfire.
Stout said he and other council members have asked the Forest Service multiple times to patrol the area and make sure people are not littering, but to no avail he said. Local police do not have any jurisdiction unless it is an immediate issue.
“People just don’t pick up anything and they typically don’t respect the land," Ward said.
Stout suggested the city begin prohibiting vehicles from driving up to the area by digging a trench and putting in boulders. He said what would be even better is working with the federal government on a buffer zone, or moving the unofficial shooting range to another area, farther from nearby homes.
“We hate to put limitations on what we consider to be one of the crown jewels of our city in Lambert Park, but we’ve got to figure out a way to protect it," Stout said.
A public meeting will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Alpine City Hall. Stout said this is an opportunity for a discussion about what to do, recognizing all suggestions before council makes a final decision.