What’s Wrong With This Press Release: U.S. Forest Service Edition

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Search for Persons of Interest

Flagstaff, AZ – On Monday, April 21st at approximately 5:00 p.m., firefighters from the USDA Forest Service and Flagstaff City Fire Department responded to a wildland fire near Doney Park.  Firefighters were able to quickly control the fire which consumed less than one acre.  An on-scene witness informed law enforcement that he had observed two people shooting at clay pigeons at approximately 3:00 p.m. before the fire started.  Location of the fire was off Forest Road 498, approximately one half mile west of Hutton Ranch Road; the area is also accessible from Slayton Ranch Road.  The two individuals were estimated to be in their late twenties and early thirties and described as:  a white male, approximately 6’3” – 6’7” with short blond hair, and a female with brown, braided hair in a pony tail.  They were driving a blue pickup with a camper shell, possibly a Toyota. If anyone has any information on these two individuals, please contact the Coconino National Forest at (928) 527-3552.


  1. avatar Andrew says:

    Ah, yes, the dreaded incendiary tracer phosphorous laser-emitting clay pigeons.

    Check that: DELAYED (up to two hours!) incendiary tracer phosphorous laser-emitting clay pigeons.

    1. avatar Jeremy B. says:

      2 summers ago the Tonto National Forest (also in AZ) had one of its costliest (in dollars, not lives) wild fires ever. Started by shotgun. This one happened to be an “dragon breath” round.

      It also happens with tracers, anything with steel, and possibly with non sparking ammo if the rocks contain the right minerals. I’ve personally seen at least 3 range fires, one in the military, one as a civilian, and one as a wildland firefighter.

      Target shooting can and does start fires. However, cars, trailers, OHVs, and camp fires are more common.

      Regarding this incident… if it easnt started by lightning, it was started by man. I’d want to speak to them too… but probably not about shooting.

      1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

        I witnessed many range fires at Ft Sill and Ft Hood. Funny thing is a lot of those fires were started by idiots doing idiotic things, not weapons fire. Don’t get me wrong, we set huge chunks of both posts on fire with rifle, machine gun and artillery fire. That said, the worst one I ever saw was started by a captain warming coffee by using paper in his canteen cup stove, I offered him fuel tabs but he said no, this will work. And it certainly did. To the tune of several hundred acres, a gamma goat and several tents/range buildings.

        And yes, that is a lower case “c”, because he was a lower case “o” officer.

  2. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

    Started a fire by shooting clay pigeons? Seems unlikely.

    1. avatar Jeff O. says:

      Highly unlikely.

      But the same two folk could have been say, smoking and left butts.
      Or parked their truck on dry brush.

      Around my area shooters have been blamed for starting fires, with guns, exploding targets, blah blah blah, when in reality both times it was either related to cigarettes or in another case chain dragging on dirt bike trailer.

      But knee-jerk reaction, blame guns!

      1. avatar E White says:

        You live in Utah County!

      2. avatar TX Gun Gal says:

        Unlikely to be cigarette cause, modern cigarettes go out by themselves if you don’t take a puff reglarly

        1. avatar Jeff says:

          Supposed to, but not always. I just recently witnessed my grandfather in law toss a half-smoked cigarette out in a field we were working in. I came back a half hour later and it had burned down to the filter.

          I haven’t smoked for years, so that’s the only anecdotal evidence I’ve got.

        2. Not always true. About two years ago in the summer I was getting my mail and as a car went past they threw a cigarette out. It bounced last me and into the ditch. While waiting for traffic to I smelled smoke. I turned around and a small fire had started up within maybe 20 seconds. Took 10 or so 5 gallon buckets of water before I had it under control.

        3. avatar SAS 2008 says:

          Taking a puff is just adding oxygen to keep them burning. A windy or breezy day can keep them going. They do go out easier but it is no guarantee.

        4. avatar peirsonb says:

          And they don’t go out right away anyway. There’s a minute or two of smoldering (heh, the spell checker kicked out smouldering 🙂 ) before they go out. Beside that, I was out of town recently and had to “settle” for a different brand that didn’t go out AT ALL.

      3. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

        With all due respect, the only people actually blaming the guns or defending the guns against nonexistent attack, are you guys. (Although John O. appears to be referring to his experience and not this story, so may not apply to him.)

        I don’t see anything in the press release that evens suggests the guns were the cause. That the couple had been shooting seems almost incidental in the report. To draw an accusatory inference strikes me as overly defensive.

        The important point is that there was a couple in the area in the hours immediately preceding the response to the fire. As an investigator, I’d want to interview them, too, at least as potential witnesses. Really, if the report had mentioned a couple had been sighted in the area and incidentally mentioned they’d been enjoying refreshing Slurpees, would we all show up here dressed in our snarkiest comments about how semi-frozen sugar water cannot possibly have started this fire?

    2. avatar BDub says:

      It didn’t say the fire was started by the shooting, just that the suspects were shooting. Its just an identifier. They probably discarded a lit cigarette. Even if they were camping, wouldn’t it be prudent to then look for people with camping gear?

      There is plenty of anti-gun slant out there without us looking for it where its not.

    3. avatar murray says:

      they were obviously firing tracer rounds

      1. avatar Kaleb says:

        Birdshot tracers. 😉

  3. avatar Anmut says:

    Blame guns!!

    1. avatar Jonathan says:

      But they didn’t blame guns. They wish to speak to the individuals who were seen shooting clays. Not for shooting clays. But because, maybe they can help with the inquiry. The level of reactionary paranoia here is reaching hysteria. Calm the **** down!

      1. avatar Don says:

        Exactly. I read the same article. Never had those thoughts.

      2. avatar Jumbie says:

        Same as Jonathan. The description seems to be for ID purposes (Have you seen people with clay targets or guns?) same as the height and hair length info.

        No indication of thinking the guns started the fire.

  4. avatar David says:

    I doubt very seriously that bird shot brass out of a 12 gauge shotgun even three and a half inch Magnum would cause a forest fire. This comes from over 50 years of experience in my family being fireman. The basis of it is that less than a quarter of the shell contains heat the rest of the shells made from plastic the brass has surface area at 360 degrees three-dimensionally air and cool it it would only be hot for a matter of 3 or 4 minutes tops. So basically sounds like one of them was smoking cigarettes and possibly through a cigarette butts out and its smoldered for a while giving the delayed reaction to the fire starting there’s nowhere shotgun shell laying in but even dry grass for an hour or forty minutes where is going to start an open fire like that just not going to happen no way no how.

    1. avatar ForRealz? says:


      It had nothing to do with those people and it was some neighborhood shit kid that thought it would be funny to start a blaze.

      Or, Joe the crackhead did it.


  5. avatar Taylor TX says:

    Clay Pigeons + Dragons Breath? I prefer to use the cheapy #8 bird myself but to each his own I suppose, until you start burning shit down.

    I thought Arizona was a very gun friendly place, did I miss something?

    1. avatar Jim R says:

      It is–but they take wildfires pretty seriously, since the entire state is basically a tinderbox.

    2. avatar SpeleoFool says:

      Yeah, we’re gun-friendly, but also fire-wary. Parts of the state burn every year, so public lands are subject to fire restrictions and/or closures as everything dries out. I just took a friend from NJ out shooting this week & we got shut down at the usual outdoor spot due to fire restrictions; had to settle for paper at the range instead.

      Honestly, it seems a little early for “fire season.” The cacti are still blooming and the hills are still green. But if Flagstaff is seeing fires already, guess it’s about time.

      1. avatar NYC2AZ says:

        Yup. Hiked part of the Arizona Trail yesterday via Sandy Canyon Southeast of Flagstaff. There was a recent fire scar from the bottom of the canyon all the way up the East ridge. I could still smell the burnt timber. Fire season has started early this year for the southwest.

  6. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Well aside from the obvious, there is the female with her hair both braided and in a ponytail. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before.

    1. avatar SpeleoFool says:

      Lara Croft did it…

    2. avatar Ing says:

      I think it’s called a bronytail.

  7. avatar Mack Bolan says:

    And conveniently the witness who was in the same vicinity as the alleged shootists, has a full and detailed description. Which they recalled to the forest service while casually smoking a cigarette.

  8. avatar bozo says:

    Rich bastards… obviously shooting with Dragons Breath. Hope they find ’em!

  9. avatar Silentbrick says:

    I’m pretty sure Joe “I’m Sane!” Biden was there, pissing 90 proof vodka and tossing lit matches. Sounds like a Biden thing.

  10. avatar ForRealz? says:

    The ole Willy Pete shotgun shells eh?

    Does the U.S. Forest Service have a SWAT or “Special Operations” team?

    Do you think they will use it on these two nefarious individuals once they are located?

    What about the chance of some MRAP action? After all, we know that these two “persons of interest” has gunz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  11. avatar Aaron says:

    Discriminatory reporting. The male was described as white and yet the female did not have her race published. Also, the vehicle type was published as possibly being a Toyota without any concrete proof of the manufacturer.

  12. avatar Patriot says:

    Racists!!!!!! They’re profiling by saying it was a white male!!!!! I’m offended!!!!!

  13. avatar SAS 2008 says:

    This area is currently under stage one fire restrictions. It won’t be long before they bump it up to stage II which prohibits discharging of firearms.

    People around here have no concept of how a firearm can or can’t start a fire. It is the same BS every year and there is a month or two where you have to know very specifically what land is controlled by who to find those few spots where you can still shoot.

    The vast majority of fires in the area are human caused but not by firearms. They are usually, camp fires, smoking, welding (game and fish a few years ago) or something like that. The City of Flagstaff is currently running a helicopter every night looking for transient camp fires.

  14. avatar El Mac says:

    @RF, “so what’s wrong with this press release…?”

    Absolutely nothing.

    1. avatar Delmarva Chip says:


    2. avatar Hannibal says:


      If they’d been walking their dog the release would have said they were walking their dog.

    3. avatar DJ9 says:

      ‘@RF, “so what’s wrong with this press release…?”

      Absolutely nothing.’

      I disagree. Aaron touched on it, above.

      If you describe one person using their skin color, you should do the same for the other. No need to involve guesses about race (“white” should be considered a skin color, not a race); just use light-skin-tone, dark-skin-tone, etc. If the purpose of the persons-of-interest alert is to help find the people, then they should use as much info as they can to help folks ID the people to be found.

      You wouldn’t leave out the color of the vehicle if you knew it; same should be true of the skin colors involved. Clothes can be added or changed quickly and easily, even with no evil intent (wind comes up, pull on a jacket; temp goes up, shed a shirt, etc.), so clothing descriptions are less helpful.

      PC-ness causing problems, or at least not helping, once again.

      1. avatar El Mac says:

        @DJ9, I don’t disagree, however…the person that did the observing and reporting might not have been able to discern the “skin tone” of the female. To surmise otherwise is akin to “guilty until proven innocent”.

      2. avatar Hannibal says:

        And how do you know it was politically correctness and not (a) an omission or (b) something the witness could not tell because she was turned away?

      3. avatar DJ9 says:

        Many explanations are possible, but in my experience, to be able to discern details of the female’s hairstyle would seem to indicate a proximity that would allow an ID of the basic skin tone.

        And after watching this phenomena unfold in the media and some LE/government agencies over the last 5-10 years, and noting the follow-up photos of the eventually-detained/arrested persons where the skin tone was obvious, I will stand by my observations. I will also encourage others to note how often it happens in the future, and which eventually-detained/arrested persons were habitually NOT identified by skin-tone, to confirm the PC bias for themselves.

        You don’t have to take my word for it; I’ll just point it out, you can use your own eyes.

        By the way, my wife also noted it on the first reading. Ask one or more non-gunny folks to read RFs headline and article, and see what they come up with.

  15. avatar Stinkeye says:

    Some of you guys are WAY too oversensitive. Where does it say that they think the shooting started the fire? It describes the two guys and what they were doing, to make it easier for a potential witness to know who they’re talking about. If they’d been riding ATVs or carrying fishing gear, they probably would have mentioned that, too.

    Seriously, calm down.

    1. avatar Skyler says:

      Yes, they were the only people in the area where a fire started. Of course they will list everything they were doing. Anyone hearing that report without the activity might not pay attention, but if they knew two who went out to shoot clays around that time, that might cause them to notice the report.

      Sometimes a description is just a description.

    2. avatar (Formerly) MN Matt says:

      “This is not the hill to die on that you’re looking for…” *Jedi hand wave*

    3. avatar SpeleoFool says:

      Well, don’t rule it out entirely. Just this week I spoke with a USFS Ranger (Tonto NF, AZ) about fire restrictions on target shooting & she said they’ve seen fires start from steel-core ammo and the junk targets people shoot. I agree it’s nigh-impossible that shotguns started the blaze, but I wouldn’t consider it unlikely at all that the two peeps-of-interest brought out more than just shotguns. Still, cigarettes seem by far the likeliest culprit.

      Anyway, if you start a fire on public lands you’re responsible for the cost of putting it out. So they’re looking for these folks to help figure out how the fire started and who’s at fault so they can pin the bill on someone. Still, looking for two white folks with guns and a pickup in AZ? Good luck with that! 🙂

  16. avatar (Formerly) MN Matt says:

    Geesh, TTAG… Looking to be offended easily?

  17. avatar SouthernPatriot says:

    It is the guns fault. Any one with guns is suspect. Shooting clay pigeons started the huge forest fire that burned out all the dreaded undergrowth to enable new trees to sprout forth.

    Do we have to watch carefully when we go on our several hundred acres and target practice or actually hunt deer, and doves, rabbit, etc.? What is in these new bullet? OMG!

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      So if you have a gun you can’t possibly be suspected of anything? It’s some sort of magical tailsman that means you can’t have been smoking and threw a butt on the ground? Neat.

  18. avatar Maineuh says:

    If the guys were playing harmonicas, they’d be looking for guys with harmonicas. I mean, that’s how I read it. Maybe I’m missing something.

  19. avatar Don says:

    Unless they were shooting clay with dragon’s breath rounds?


  20. avatar 4x4moses says:

    Why does the Forest Service assume the clay shooters are responsible for the fire?

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      They aren’t making that assumption (at least not in this press release). Those were the last two people seen in the area before the fire was reported, according to the witness, so they want to talk to them. Maybe they’re responsible, or maybe they saw something else that could be useful in tracking down the cause of the fire. “Person of interest” is not the same as “suspect”.

  21. avatar Jug says:

    They didn’t actually say that shooting caused the fire, but they just couldn’t word it any other way than to purposely imply such.

    The wording was neither needed nor accidental.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      Only if you’re oversensitive. I shoot in the woods plenty and didn’t take that meaning.

  22. avatar Bill Malone says:

    I think there is a lot of misinterpretation of the article. It is standard investigatory practice to interview anyone that was in the area of an incident. The cause of the fire has not even been determined. It’s not even a crime yet.

  23. avatar vioshi says:

    I have anything to say about the release but I know that this can skew the stats. Most of the fires in utah listed as fires started by shooting are not started by people shooting guns. Some of them were fires started by people that weren’t even shooting but just had guns in there camper/car. So even though it was a cig or hot muffler the stats say guns are to blame and this is how they ban shooting.

    1. avatar Bill says:

      Any reliable sources to back up your claim? It’s well known that steel core bullets have started fires. Let’s see the evidence that fires listed as the result of shooting actually weren’t.

      1. avatar vioshi says:

        I thought I could find the link, but alas I can’t. Maybe I heard it on the local radio show.

        I will concede most, if not all, of the fires started by shooters are caused by people doing stupid (and illegal here) things like flare guns, tracers, and steel core rounds.

  24. avatar jollyroger says:

    Well they do make tracer shotgun rounds for training for skeet and trap shooting and of course new years

  25. avatar Pashtun6 says:

    Don’t see anything wrong with this release….

  26. avatar Tex300BLK says:

    I dont really see anything out of the ordinary, unless you interpret every mention of firearms in the news as accusatory. It states something that occurred (forest fire), and identified two people who are potential witnesses (the two people shooting guns). By describing their activity they potentially reach out to those two specific people who may be at home not realizing they are the person of interest.

  27. avatar former water walker says:

    Slow news day? Who knows if they unintentionally started a fire. Or intentionally.

  28. avatar Pete S. says:

    I don’t know if its standard procedure, but I always soak my clays in gasoline and then give them a generous coating of tannerite before going skeet shooting in my local national forest.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      For some reason I just got the image in my mind of the guys who collect golf balls from driving ranges…

  29. avatar miforest says:

    this us the usfs laying down a few markers to justify banning shooting on public land. BTW , where were the broken up clay pigeons? seems suspicious that they didn’t mention littering, I know you cannot do that here. no targets left behind, and you cannot clean up clay pidgeon mess, and they don’t burn, So I call BS on the whole story.

  30. avatar H.R. says:

    This isn’t really gun related, except that a couple people who possessed a gun might have also set a fire.

    And this isn’t anti-gun propaganda. I’ve seen bullets with steel jackets or cores throw sparks that could start a fire in dry conditions. There’s also no way a standard skeet load is starting a fire, but if they also shot a couple specialty rounds…who knows?

  31. avatar sota says:

    6’3″ to 6’7″ ??!?! that’s a pair of tall drinks of water right there!

  32. avatar Lfshtr says:

    I’ve been shooting clay for over 50 years, never ever seen sparks from shot. Now if you get under the shot and catch them, then throw them real hard against the rocks could cause sparks, yeah right, give me a break, it’s all BS. When you shoot a shotgun you can see the #7.5 shot fly and if you where under it the bbs fall to the ground at approximately 800 mph, BS. Be safe out there and watch out for the flame throwers.

  33. avatar Another Robert says:

    Didn’t even say they were suspects. They would be possible witnesses if nothing else.I don’t see anything too sinister here.

  34. avatar Nelson says:

    Americans don’t snitch on Americans.

    Don’t succumb to #GovtTerrorists.

  35. avatar 2hotel9 says:

    Have to agree, does not appear they are considered suspects in the fire, just possible witnesses. And yes, they could have, totally inadvertently, started it by accident. Living in/operating in arid regions comes with a long list of dangers for the careless.

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