Byers Canyon Shooting Range reopens shortly after fire worry prompts closure
PARSHALL — Multiple state-managed shooting ranges around northwestern Colorado, including Byers Canyon Shooting Range near Parshall, have reopened after officials closed several facilities in early July following the outbreak of the Lake Christine Fire by Basalt.
Grand County’s popular shooting range officially reopened July 15, less than two weeks after it was closed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials due to ongoing concerns related to the fire danger in Grand County and the larger northwestern section of the state. Mike Porras, spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the decision to close Byers Canyon Shooting Range, as well as six other regional state-managed shooting ranges, was done out of “an abundance of caution.”
State officials became concerned about the potential for wildfire outbreaks at state managed shooting ranges after the Lake Christine Fire was sparked at the Basalt State Wildlife Area Shooting Range on July 3. Two individuals are facing felony charges related to that incident, which state officials believe was ignited by the illegal use of tracer ammunition at the Basalt range.
Byers Canyon Shooting Range has seen multiple fire outbreaks related to target shooting over the years. From 2010 to 2012 a series of three wildland fires, all connected to the use of tracer ammunition, were sparked at the range. In August 2017, firefighters quickly suppressed a fire at the range that investigators believe was ignited by the use of tracer rounds as well. In 2015 the Byers Canyon Rifle Range Fire burned closed to 600 acres of land and threatened the town of Hot Sulphur Springs. Officials attributed that fire to the use of a .223 full metal jacket round that struck and rock and created sparks that ignited nearby brush.
According to Porras the decision to implement range closures, and to reopen ranges, takes into account the local fire restrictions in the various counties where the ranges are located. Porras said this summer’s wildfire season has prompted a reconsideration of the manner in which Colorado Parks and Wildlife determines if a range closure is warranted.
“Going forward we will be taking an extra step while looking at ranges,” Porras said. “We are looking at vegetation control. We may have fire officials come out and take a look. I think that collaboration is going to be at a higher level. It is at a higher level this year due to extreme fire conditions across the state. The way this year went, there is going to be a lot of dialog back and forth about how we better protect everybody.”
The Byers Canyon Shooting Range and the Plateau Creek State Wildlife Area Shooting Range were the first two ranges closed by the state to reopen this summer. The Hayden Shooting Range and the West Rifle Creek State Wildlife Area Shooting Range followed them in early August. The Basalt shooting range will remain closed for the foreseeable future as state prepares to hold a pair of public meetings about the future of the shooting at the Basalt High School this week and next.
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