A preliminary investigation indicates the Ana Fire burning near Summer Lake, Oregon, was sparked by a group of people shooting tannerite exploding targets on private property, the Herald and News reports.
Fire officials and law enforcement held a meeting Tuesday night for residents affected by the fire, which has since destroyed a cabin and an outbuilding.
Lake County District Attorney Sharon Foster told residents at the meeting that some of those involved in the shooting incident were visitors from the Eugene-Springfield area.
Firefighters have since made progress extinguishing the fire. As of about 8:45 a.m., the fire was 50 percent contained and burning 5,874 acres — down from 6,200 as of Tuesday morning.
Evacuation orders along Highway 31 have been reduced to a level one warning. About 400 personnel are still working to fight the fire.
Fire officials determined the fire was human-caused, a troubling detail for officials ahead of a drier forecast in southern Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
“We are rapidly approaching into lightning season where we will start needing to respond to new starts from lightning,” said Sarah Saarloos, an interagency fire agent officer with the South-Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership. “With these hot and dry conditions, we need the public to assist us to be very vigilant with anything that causes a start.”
Officials say the fire was 20 percent contained by midday Tuesday at the valley bottom, where people live.
There was a level two evacuation order 2 miles north of Forest Road and 2 miles south of The Lodge at Summer Lake. A level two warning — on a scale of three — urges residents to prepare for a possible evacuation.
Oregon Highway 31 is still open, but Saarloos says fire engines and other equipment in the area will cause delays of up to 20 minutes or more.
“We’re not seeing any rain for our area for south-central [Oregon] and the Pacific Northwest,” said Saarloos. “If we can reduce the amount of human-caused starts it would help us be able to be prepared for when we receive huge amounts of lightning.”
This story has been updated.