7/27/2011: Anchorage fire kills child, likely because of ammunition

http://www.adn.com/2011/07/27/1987707/house-on-fire-in-mountain-view.html  I’m sure that gun owners are very sad today because they are feeling at least partly responsible for killing this little child.  The smart ones are, anyway.

4 Responses

  1. If you’re likely most people, you probably own gasoline for a lawn mower or snow blower, paint, and aerosol cans. Does that make you responsible for this young girl’s tragic death?

    Likewise, over a million people die in traffic accidents every year. Are you personally responsible for these deaths if you own a car?

    Ammunition does not act the way I think you believe it does in a fire. If it gets hot enough, the small amounts of powder (usually measured in grains) in a cartridge will “cook off.” This small explosion will probably rupture the brass casing of the cartridge. This may send sharp shrapnel flying a few feet in all directions, but with little force; such shrapnel will almost certainly be stopped by a magazine, ammo can, thick plastic crate, drywall, or heavy work clothing. The bullet seated in the end of the case may pop out and roll a few feet.

    If the round is chambered in a firearm, then yes, it would actually go off as normal. The chamber serves to focus and direct the explosion of the powder, resulting in the expulsion of the projectile at hundreds or thousands of feet per second. This could be a serious concern, however, obviously can only happen once for each firearm which is stored with a chambered round — hardly a barrage. Many things in fires are very unsafe, such as exploding pipes, collapsing floors, caved in roofs — and yes, loaded firearms.

    The shipping treatment of ammo matches up with this assessment. Ammo is an “ORM-D” item, which means it can be shipped by regular old UPS-ground. Try shipping gasoline or any other really flammable substance and you’ll see it falls under much stricter hazmat rules!

    The eye witness testimony claimed that a barrage of bullets was flying overhead. However, there are not any first responder vehicles or neighbor’s houses full of bullet holes. Eye-witness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and it seems most likely that those present heard the cartridges cooking off and assumed that bullets must be whizzing overhead. Moreover, the firefighters were not deterred; their biggest challenge was a wall of fire that had to be suppressed, not a hail of lead.

    I don’t really know why I or any other person who owns ammunition should feel personally responsible for this tragedy. I also own many other things which are far more hazardous in a fire like gasoline for my lawn mower, some aerosol cans, and paint left over from a project. None of those things in my storage areas contributed to a fire in Mt View. If anything, we should be wondering if smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and sprinklers could have done anything to help prevent this tragic loss.

    • Apparently, the popping of the ammo in the house was enough to keep the cops & firemen away from the home. It’s not important that the ammo might not have actually hurt anyone directly, it was directly responsible for delaying any possible rescue.

  2. Did you actually read the article?

    “An Anchorage police officer in the area saw smoke and was the first to report the fire at 9:42 a.m., fire officials said. Firefighters arrived a few minutes later, Tamagni said. They sprayed water on the entryway and forced their way into the house.

    ‘That whole front was a wall of flame and they just marched in there,’ said Jim Reeves….

    A woman kept trying to go back into the burning house but a man held her back, Callies said….

    The firefighters pushed through the flames to a flight of stairs and down to the bottom floor. There they found the girl in a bedroom, lifeless and in bed, McDonald said.”

    It sounds like at least the parents were ready to dive in right away. As soon as the firemen suppressed the WALL OF FIRE in the doorway they also went in. There was no delay in response due to the ammo — the problem, again, was the SHEET OF FLAME blocking entrance to the home, not some ammo harmlessly cooking off.

    In fact, firefighters are often educated and trained on various hazards. They know what kind of hazard ammo actually poses (i.e., generally little). For example, here’s a professional journal article (from anti-gun Down Under, in fact) that concludes that there isn’t really much of a hazard (http://www.fpaa.com.au/information/docs/Small%20Arms.pdf). SAAMI — the organization chartered by the federal government to ensure that ammunition is standardized — has an instructive video that illustrates the facts more clearly:
    http://www.saami.org/videos/sporting_ammunition_and_the_firefighter.cfm
    Sensation media accounts to the contrary, there are a heck of lot of things more hazardous in a fire than cases of small arms ammo, like the propane tank on a BBQ grill, cans of paint, or typical drapes and window treatments.

    Of course, those are silly things called “facts,” and they’d get in the way of your desire to exploit this tragedy for your own agenda.

    • The sound of exploding bullets made a cop think there was a shooting going on. The sound of bullets whizzing by made folks apprehensive about going into that building. Ammunition made saving this girl’s life more difficult. Thanks gun owner Chris for contributing to her death by making ammo easily available.

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