Boulder County fire and sheriff's investigators have released the cause of the Rabbit Mountain Fire near Hygiene, ruling that it was started by target shooters at Round Mountain Ranch.
The Boulder County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that target shooters had been shooting steel plates in the northwest corner of 6303 Ute Highway when a fragment from one of the rounds ignited nearby grasses, which were extremely dry.
"The target shooters attempted to extinguish the fire, but the fire rapidly spread due to the dry fuels on the ground and the weather conditions, including high winds," Cmdr. Mike Wagner wrote. "The target shooters placed the 911 call reporting the fire."
Wagner wrote that investigators are in conversation with the Boulder County District Attorney's Office to determine whether criminal charges will be filed as a result of the fire.
He said in response to questions about whether the shooting was allowed that "there are no legal restrictions in place that explicitly prohibit shooting on the property." He added that "the question comes down to whether there is criminal responsibility for the fire or not in review of the criminal statutes."
Because the investigation is ongoing, the sheriff's office is not releasing the identities of the target shooters at this time.
The 911 call came in around 5 p.m. Monday, which was the start of what would be an overnight battle against the fire that eventually burned more than 150 acres, including three outbuildings, one barn and one horse trailer. It was fully contained by Tuesday morning.
Officials previously said one horse suffered minor injuries, but Thursday's news release said the injury was a pre-existing condition and not caused by the fire.
The Hygiene Fire Protection District is continuing to patrol the area and mop-up hot spots, according to the news release.
Amelia Arvesen: 303-684-5212, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/ameliaarvesen
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