HELENA — A fire north of Helena that burned nearly 8 square miles (20 square kilometers) of forestland and led to evacuation orders for 400 residences was started by someone illegally shooting at an exploding target on an informal gun range on Bureau of Land Management land.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says they’re not releasing the person’s name and the shooter won’t face state criminal charges.
BLM field manager Scott Haight tells the Independent Record newspaper that exploding targets are illegal on BLM lands and the suspect could be cited for violations that carry hundreds of dollars in fines. He says the financial cost would be much higher if the shooter is found liable for firefighting costs and property damage. No homes were lost.
The fire started on July 26 and was 90 percent contained on Monday.