A statewide burn ban has taken effect three weeks early, Port Blakely Tree Farms has closed its forest lands to public access, and Olympic Resource Management has done the same in southwest Washington, all in an effort to prevent wildfires.
In that scenario, does selling exploding targets make sense?
That’s what Olympia resident Morris Quimby is wondering after he received a Cabela’s advertising supplement in the mail, touting an upcoming sale that starts Thursday and includes “sonic boom reactive targets,” which “produce one of the loudest booms on the market.” The ad for the sporting goods store also points out that you have to be 21 or older to purchase the product and it involves “easy-to-mix, two-part chemicals.”
The product, according to the ad, is not available in Nebraska, Alaska, New York and Maine. It also encourages buyers to check local laws and regulations.
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Cabela’s operates a store in Lacey. Two spokespeople for the Nebraska-based retailer could not be reached on Wednesday. The devices also are available at Walmart and Bass Pro Shops.
When Quimby, 72, saw the ad, he was reminded of the Dog Mountain Fire in Lewis County in 2013.
That fire burned 165 acres of Port Blakely land. A state Department of Natural Resources investigation later determined that it was triggered by shooting at an exploding target, Port Blakely spokeswoman Teresa Loo said.
Quimby, who hunts and fishes, has seen the exploding targets in action . He once visited a private shooting range in the Tenino area and said they “really blow hot.”
“I’d hate to see Capitol Forest go up (in flames),” he said.
According to the website of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) , so-called “binary explosives,” such as exploding targets, are pre-packaged products consisting of two separate components, usually an oxidizer like ammonium nitrate, and a fuel, such as aluminum or another metal.
Because they are not explosive until combined, ATF “does not regulate the sale and distribution of these component chemicals, even when sold together in binary kits,” the bureau says. Combining the chemicals to produce an exploding target is considered “manufacturing explosives,” the ATF says, but persons manufacturing explosives for their own personal use are not required to have a federal license or permit.
This is similar to the way ATF treats black-powder enthusiasts, fireworks hobbyists and ammunition self-loaders.
Incendiary devices, such as exploding targets, are not allowed on state lands, including at nearby Capitol Forest, said Larry Raedel, law enforcement chief for DNR.
But that doesn’t mean everyone follows the rules.
“If they did, I’d be out of a job,” he said.
Statewide, DNR has 12 law enforcement officers, including Raedel. That workforce is sometimes augmented with recreation wardens, plus the state works with local partners, such as the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, when it comes to enforcing the rules at Capitol Forest, for example.
“Right now we’re all on point,” said Raedel about the threat of wildfires.
The 100,000-acre forest, which touches west Olympia, is used by horseback riders, off-road vehicles, hikers and campers. It also is a working forest, where timber sales generate revenue for a variety of state-funded organizations, such as counties and library districts, DNR spokeswoman Janet Pearce said.
Raedel said there’s been an increase in the number of people enjoying recreational activities in recent years, which he attributed to the rise in social media, increasing the knowledge of local destinations. Target shooting also has increased, and it’s one of DNR’s biggest challenges, he said.
Unless otherwise noted by a sign, target shooting is allowed at Capitol Forest if shooters are firing into an earthen background, he said.
If someone is found to be using an exploding target, the penalty is treated like a misdemeanor offense, which might include a fine or jail time.
Quimby added: “A lot of people like to make noise, but after 23 years in the Army, I’ve had enough of it.”