GREAT FALLS- Shooting at Tannerite was the cause of the wildfire by Vinyard Road and Cove Lane September 3, and the cause of the North Hills Fire in Helena.
Tannerite is a mixture of aluminum powder and ammonium sulfate, otherwise known as fertilizer.
Tannerite on its own isn't dangerous and can be fun to shoot, in the right conditions, which is why some stores in Great Falls don't even sell it during the summer months.
“It can cause fires; I mean we've shot it before. We actually had two containers. We shot one and it started a fire. We shot the other one and it put it out,” Said James Mitchell of Mitchell Supply, “The main thing is basically the high-velocity bullet acts like a detonator. You mix the powers together and that makes an explosive and you shoot it with a high-velocity bullet and that creates the explosion from the kinetic energy.”
Most of the people we talked with couldn't tell us the first thing about Tannerite because it's that hard to come by in Great Falls, making online shopping one of the few ways of getting your hands on it.
If you do plan on target shooting in the near future, make sure to be aware of the weather conditions. Even without the Tannerite, a fire can be started by a bullet sparking off a steel target or even a rock.