How Dangerous is Ammunition in a House Fire?

A house fire is devastating in a number of ways. It's one of the most dangerous things firefighters face on a routine basis, but does storing a quantity of ammunition in your home make things even more dangerous for those fighting a fire if one should ever break out?

According to this story from krcrtv.com, ammunition can cause problems in rural areas, as recent wildfires in California have shown, but it's not as dangerous as you might think.

Darren Stewart, a Fire Specialist with CAL FIRE, explains in the story that without a gun wrapped around it, there's nothing to contain and direct the pressures created by the propellant in a cartridge igniting, and that the popping noise people hear when ammunition is burning is not the bullet flying away from the casing with any force--regardless of what you may have seen in the movies.

"It's like an aerosol can going off," he said. "Of course it's a flying hazard, but it's nothing that we have to take shelter."

However, when firefighters do hear that popping sound, they change up their attack plan, the story says, because ammo likely means a gun, and a loaded gun can be a big problem in a house fire, since a round cooking off in a chamber because of a fire would be the same as pulling the trigger on a live round.

Stewart says the sounds are quite different and easily distinguishable by firefighters.

The way you store ammunition also has a lot to do with how dangerous it could be in a fire.

Patrick Jones, a firefighter with Jones' Fort, says in the story that ammo stored in metal containers can cause an explosion in a fire.

"Metal containers are typically not ideal," Jones said. "When a fire comes through and when that ammunition gets super heated to ignite, if it's stored in a steel container, that can create quite an explosion within the steel container."

And the the container itself can become dangerous bits of shrapnel, in addition to the bullets and casings.

He says the best place to store ammo is in a dry spot and in a wooden container.

Stewart goes on to say in the story that residents evacuated from their homes in the case of wildfires would do better to bring the guns along, if there's time.

"I would highly recommend that they take their guns with them when they do evacuate from a fire. Obviously you don't know how long you are going to be evacuated for. It's a good idea to take your weapons with you or put them in a safe and we do ask that you unload them," he said.

The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute made a video for firefighters on how ammunition reacts under various circumstances. You can see a pallet of 26,000 rounds of ammunition catch fire, and what happens, just past the 12-minute mark in the video above.