Ricocheted bullets sparked Sand Hollow fire that destroyed home, burned 266 acres

This human-caused wildfire in the Sand Hollow area of Payette County burned 266 acres of public and private land.
This human-caused wildfire in the Sand Hollow area of Payette County burned 266 acres of public and private land.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is still investigating the Sunday afternoon wildfire, but it has determined that people shooting lead-based bullets are to blame — and could be held responsible for firefighting costs, BLM fire spokeswoman Keri Steneck said Monday.

The fire, spotted by a BLM lookout about 2:30 p.m., destroyed a home, several outbuildings, multiple cars and two semi-trailers, Steneck said. It was fully contained by 10 p.m. Sunday and was expected to be controlled at 6 p.m. Monday, with crews monitoring the fire through the day, she said.

Most of the burned acreage south of Interstate 84 three miles west of the Sand Hollow Exit is BLM land, but a good chunk of it is private, Steneck said. It reportedly started near a residential driveway near Oasis Road and Tower Lane, and spread quickly through grass and sage during the breezy afternoon.

At least 30 firefighters from numerous local fire departments — Eagle, Caldwell, Nampa, Payette, Middleton, Parma and Sand Hollow — and the BLM responded, stopping the fire’s advance within a few hours, Steneck said. A helicopter and air-attack plane helped fight the blaze.

Steneck said that despite wet weather earlier in the year, there’s still high potential for wildfires this summer. Eighty-six percent of wildfires in the Boise BLM district are caused by humans rather than lightning, she added.

“Conditions right now in the wildland are absolutely perfect for fire,” she said.

Shooting is legal on BLM land, Steneck said, but a fire prevention order now in effect forbids shooting at metal or rocks, which can cause bullets to ricochet into grass or brush and spark a fire. That’s what apparently happened Sunday, she said, declining to give any details about the people suspected of starting the fire.

Anyone shooting on public land or other brushy areas is urged to take necessary precautions. Chief among those, Steneck said, is to have a shovel and water to quickly extinguish an accidental fire, and a cellphone to report the fire.

The cost of fighting the Sandy fire has not been determined, she said, but if individuals are ultimately found responsible they could face a sizable bill.

“With all the agencies that responded, and air support, it’s definitely going to be an expensive fire,” she said.