I had just stepped from church with my family when the text buzzed through on my phone. It was from one of the guys I own some hunting land with and it basically said, “There was a little incident at the farm yesterday. We were shooting tracers and set the cutover next to the house on fire. House is okay, but about 40 acres burned.”

We had just planted new pines in the cut area several years back. While prescribed fire can be a good thing for pine trees, it shouldn’t occur when the trees are so young, and there was nothing prescribed or controlled about this fire. There was a good chance we were going to lose the trees, and we were lucky in the windy conditions of the day that more hadn’t burned or that the flames hadn’t run toward the house and pole barn, burning them and our equipment up.

As it turns out, the two guys out shooting that day were shooting ARs, pumping rounds into targets propped on and against a rotted log, a low area in the cutover serving as their backstop. When one of them thought it would be cool to mix in a box of tracers he had gotten from somewhere, they thought they were safe shooting them into the log. Unfortunately, a round or two either went through the log or muzzle climb caused the shooter to send rounds about 80 yards past the log into the tall broomstraw. It had rained the day before, but the winds and dry weather that Saturday had quickly dried the grass and weeds out enough to burn quickly. Fortunately, the local volunteer fire department and a state forest service firefighter with a bulldozer was able to make it there quickly and help avert disaster.

“I was surprised it burned like that with it raining like it did the day before,” said my fellow landowner when we spoke on the phone.

These could’ve been his famous last words; It could’ve turned out much differently.

While torrential reigns have caused near Biblical flooding throughout parts of Texas this week, there are other areas in the country where dry conditions persis, and fire danger remains a very real possibility without little provocation; particularly in the West. For that reason, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has released a public service announcement (PSA) urging shooters and hunters to use extreme caution outside this summer.

Noting that the cost for fighting wildfires could exceed $1 billion this year, the organization has released a poster and audio announcement to know the rules, regulations and fire-danger levels before going target shooting or hunting in fire-prone areas this season. The NSSF is also urging shooters to avoid using steel-jacketed or steel-core bullets, which can create fire burning sparks upon hitting hard objects, as well as to not use tracer rounds (like my friends did) or exploding targets. Flammable loads such as Dragon’s Breath shotshells should also be used with extreme caution and in a controlled area where there is no threat of causing a running fire.

Likewise, the hot exhaust pipes from vehicles and ATVs can also ignite dry grass, so avoid driving in sensitive areas or off-roads when fire levels are high. It goes without saying when camping, to be sure to fully extinguish fires before leaving them untended.

Check out the audio PSA.