In the heart of fire season, a Call Kurtis Investigation has uncovered the same types of explosives used for target practice have sparked California wildfires.
Our undercover investigation found it’s not hard to find these products, and you can buy as many as you want.
They’re called exploding targets, chemical-filled jars that are supposed to be used to add excitement to target practice.
YouTube videos show men, women even kids blowing just about anything up – even a singing, dancing Elmo doll.
But used incorrectly, they can become potentially lethal-bombs – with the power to kill.
Just ask Jennifer Plank, who was recording while someone shot at three pounds of the mixed chemicals at a party, demolishing a refrigerator.
“I had my fingers just like this holding my cell phone,” she said. “It caught my hand right underneath my fingers and up through here. This was all a mangled mess.”
When we slowed down the video, you can see the shrapnel just before hitting her, nearly taking off her hand.
Jennifer and her attorney, Chris Stevenson, are suing the manufacturer, H-2 Targets.
“I don’t think the general public is really aware how far the shrapnel goes, and what type of force it can explode,” Stevenson said.
Exploding targets have been involved in 16 wildfires in two years, according to the US Forest Service.
“If you spark a fire or injure somebody, you’ve violated the law,” said Cal Fire’s Daniel Berlant.
He said three exploding target fires have happened here in California since 2012, including one in Riverside County that injured four firefighters.
“Fires that should have been and could have been prevented,” Berlant said.
So, CBS13 went undercover to find out how easy it is to buy these targets.
We found H-2 Targets for sale at a sporting goods store in Modesto.
Our undercover producer asked an employee if a permit was needed to purchase the target.
“No, not to my knowledge,” the employee said.
At a Sacramento gun shop, we found Tannerite, another brand of exploding target, for sale.
“I’ve also seen guys take like a 100 of them,” an employee told our undercover producer.
“It was pretty cool…shoved it into a watermelon,” the employee said.
The California Department of Justice said that under California law, “the targets are legal to sell and purchase.”
The kits are sold with the chemicals separated.
California DOJ said it’s illegal to mix them creating an explosive, without a permit from your sheriff’s department.
We reached out to two of the manufacturers. H-2 Targets would not comment to us, but told our sister station WBBM-TV in Chicago, “It is a safe product when used correctly.”
Tannerite blames “…the bullet…” as the “the dangerous part of the shooting exercise….not the target”, adding that “…it’s only as dangerous as the person pulling the trigger.” But, the company said blowing things up “…is not the intended use and is irresponsible.”
Jennifer, who now lives in constant pain, wants these products banned.
“It’s dynamite waiting to go off.” She said.
Last year a Minnesota man was killed by shrapnel related to a Tannerite target.
There is a California state law that states you must have a permit to possess any substance with the intent of making an explosive.
However, during our investigation, we reached out to different federal, state and local agencies, and found some interpreted the law differently when it comes to exploding targets.
In a bulletin last year, The FBI warned of “criminals” and “extremists” using these targets to make improvised explosive devices.