Officials: Stray bullet theory is off target

BLM, county officials call report 'unsubstantiated' and 'complete rumor'

A report by the Durango Herald posted online Monday evening stated the Weber Fire was sparked by a stray bullet, according Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County's Office of Emergency Preparedness.

During an evening update on local fires Monday, Knowlton told La Plata County commissioners bullets shot at targets in Weber Canyon passed through the targets, ricochetted off rocks and ignited fire in the dry grass.

However, Connie Clementson, Bureau of Land Management's agency administrator for the Weber Fire, and Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell, both agents in charge of the joint investigation into the cause of the blaze, said that information is unsubstantiated.

“That is complete rumor,” Spruell said in a phone interview Monday evening. “It is a joint investigation with the (Bureau of Land Management) and the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office and we are still investigating.”

Clementson said she has the agency's top investigators working on the case and while the fire is being investigated as a human-caused incident, there is little information beyond that at this point.

“The cause is under investigation and anything about a bullet is pure rumor,” Clementson said. “It is human cause, but that is as much as we know now. As soon as we know what started the fire, we will make that announcement.”

Bullets can cause fires to ignite, as was the case in Utah recently. According to a USA Today story, BLM officials they believe a fire near Saratoga, Utah was started when a bullet struck a rock and sparked the fire. The same report said there have been 20 target shooting related fires in Utah this year.

Reach Kimberly Benedict at kimberlyb@cortezjournal.com.