What's up with that? SWAT teams make some noise in east Vancouver

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

I’m calling to ask what are those explosions or noises in east Vancouver, around the English Pit? I live west of 162nd Avenue and it seems like every evening this week, around 5 p.m., it really picked up. Up until around 10 p.m., there was a whole series of loud gunfire or explosions in the pit. I’m just curious what it is.

—Tom Ramish, Cimarron neighborhood

That was the sound of local SWAT officers practicing their marksmanship.

Over there in east Vancouver, you’ve definitely got lots of reasons for big booms in the air. In addition to the working English Pit rock quarry, providing cement and concrete products to local contractors, there’s the English Pit Shooting Range, home of the Clark County Gun Club, and open to the public, too. That range is at 820 N.E. 192nd Avenue; hours vary with the seasons but right now it’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

None of which is what were hearing, Tom. Tucked away to the west of the English Pit range is a smaller, more exclusive firing range: the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Firing Range. It’s at 902 N.E. 192nd.

The range is operated by the Sheriff’s Office Training Unit and routinely hosts law enforcement groups from all over the region, according to CCSO Sgt. Tim Bieber. It’s quite popular because there aren’t many local ranges that are open to law enforcement, Bieber said. There’s even a sheriff’s office website where you can download the firing range handbook and see who’s scheduled to use the range when. It appears to be pretty busy most days, and many evenings until as late as 8 p.m. or even 10 p.m.

Last week, Bieber said, the range hosted a pair of two-day classes for SWAT team members from Clark, Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Columbia counties. The topic was night vision and night operations. It was held on the evenings of Feb. 6-9.

There were more students than usual in these classes, Bieber said — about 20 per class — and more shooting than usual, later into the evening. Plus, more of that shooting involved automatic and semiautomatic weapons, he said.

“It’s a pretty intensive course,” Bieber said, led by a private contractor that’s “known for a lot of shooting.”

That’s why those east Vancouver nights were noisier than usual last week.

“I was surprised to receive complaints” the morning after the shooting began, Bieber said. “We do shoot out there at night and don’t normally receive any complaints.”

After the firing range practice, he added, the SWAT students all went out to Camp Bonneville for nonshooting night exercises.