Oregon

Gunshots Blamed For Polk County Wildfire

OPB | Sept. 12, 2007 8:34 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:19 a.m. | Salem, OR

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By Chris Lehman

A wildfire can be started by anything from a lightning strike to a carelessly tossed cigarette butt. A recent fire in Oregon is blamed on something different:  A gun.  Correspondent Chris Lehman explains.


When you fire a gun, you don't expect to see real flames.  But that's what officials in Polk County say happened last weekend when a 40-year-old Salem man was target shooting in the woods. 

Police say Eric Larkins was using a high-powered military-style rifle with armor piercing bullets.  They say Larkins fled the scene when a tree caught fire. 

The resulting blaze burned more than 420 acres. 

Lieutenant Jeff Van Laanen is with the Polk County Sheriff's Office.  He says it's the first case of its kind that he's heard of.

Jeff Van Laanen: “To me it's just common sense that if you're shooting a projectile that's designed to catch on fire, that's like going out into the middle of the woods on a hot day and shooting off fireworks.  It just doesn't make any sense at all.”

Larkins is charged with two misdemeanors.  He might face a half million dollar penalty from the Oregon Department of Forestry.  That's how much it cost to put the fire out.

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