By Matt Kroschel
GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– In the wake of the Lake Christine Fire that torched thousands of acres, forced evacuations for weeks and left three people without homes, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are touring the community getting feedback about the gun ranges they manage.
The two suspects accused of starting the Lake Christine Fire appeared in court last month.
Investigators say Richard Miller and Allison Marcus used illegal tracer rounds which sparked the fire at the Basalt Public Shooting Range on July 3.
The Lake Christine Fire destroyed three homes and forced hundreds of families to evacuate.
CBS4 found there are steps being taken to lessen the risk to wildfires caused by state shooting ranges.
One example is the 2015 fire at the Byers Canyon Gun Range. Nearly 600 acres burned near Hot Sulfur Springs after a spark from someone shooting ignited the blaze, which quickly got out of control.
“Unusual fire weather conditions burned across the highway and threatened our neighbors. We take it seriously because we want to be good neighbor,” said area wildlife manager Lyle Sidener.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages that public range and several others dotted across the state. After that fire, the agency got to work improving fire mitigation.
“Obviously we’ve had fires in the past. This is going to continue to happen. What we need to do to keep it from spreading is to get the neighbors, everybody involved,” Sidener added.
They added a firebreak around the range.
Those efforts paid off last summer when a small fire was contained to the range thanks to those firebreaks.
Now Colorado Parks and Wildlife is under new pressure following the Lake Christine Fire. The Basalt Gun Range was open despite the stage two fire restrictions in that area at the time.
“When this range is closed, the public is forced to go elsewhere. That means shooting on the National Forest or BLM land where there isn’t the added supervision,” he added.
CPW is continuing a listening tour of those who live near the ranges. Some of the issues include how to manage the shooting ranges in the future and the efforts to protect the lands near the ranges.
– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Colorado Wildfire section.
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