February 13, 2006
A trip through the woods near Fort Gordon could lead you into a warzone. The fort spans Columbia, Richmond, Jefferson and McDuffie Counties, and without physical boundaries, hunters, hikers and ATV riders can wander on the property, even right next to a firing range.
News 12 is on your side with how to avoid the eight thousand rounds that are fired there almost every day.
A hunting trip or ATV ride through the woods could lead you straight to the danger zone. Around six people a week are caught trespassing, putting them near a firing range.
It's hard for hunters like Eddie Walden to know where in the forest the safety ends and the danger begins. Many of the warning signs have been stolen or torn down over the years.
"If there's no physical boundary like a fence or a river, any land that butts up against Fort Gordon, it could be easy for someone to wander on there," Walden said.
Fort Gordon isn't fenced in, and some areas near Blythe and Harlem are close to live ammo.
If you enter the Fort Gordon boundary from Deans Bridge Road, you could be just three miles from live fire.
Garrison operations officer Thomas Fitzpatrick says rounds from the M16s they fire can travel about a mile.
"The bullet velocity may impact those people and they'll never know they were hit until it's too late," Fitzpatrick said.
He recalls a close call when a pickup truck driver wandered onto the property and got stuck in mud in the direct line of helicopter fire.
"It was only by the grace of god we found him."
The game wardens and helicopters keep a lookout before military training starts. Hunters are allowed on the base if they sign in, and only hunt on days when there's no training.
"They should only hunt the land they have permission to hunt and have a basic understanding of the lay of the land before they go."
That's good advice from hunter Eddie Walden. Because not knowing the land could lead to a fatal mistake. Soldiers are working on posting signs around the property. They expect to have them up in the next few weeks.