Firearm Forest Fire?


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juggler
August 26, 2004, 07:21 AM
On NPR this morning I heard a report on the forest fire near Reno, NV. The commentator stated that it was started by a target shooter.......her comment was to the effect that the shooter missed his/her target and the round deflected off a rock, generated a spark, and ignitied some dry brush.:confused:

OK, I can understand a spark starting a fire (boyscouts do it all the time), but a bullet off a rock? Reminds me of the joke that asks why it takes a box of matches to start a campfire but only one to start a forest fire.

To be fair, when I researched the story I found that the print media in the area only listed the following..
In the past, we've had major wildfires started by children playing with matches and/or lighters, someone throwing a cigarette butt out a window along the highway, which ignited brush, and people target shooting in the hills. (Their bullets ricocheted off rocks and created sparks, which ignited dry brush.) We've also had a fire started by the hot catalytic converter on a truck, which ignited dry brush. These were all thoughtless, stupid actions, and people lost homes, and thousands of acres of wild land was destroyed.
http://renotahoe.about.com/library/weekly/aa062201a.htm

The paragraph before this states The Martis Fire began on Sunday, June 17, and it's believed to have been caused by an unattended camp fire.

My take on this is that NPR ran with the anti-gun slant on purpose. I'd like to know if anyone else feels this way, and also what you think the chances are that a ricochet would start a fire. I will grant that it is possible, but so is winning the lottery. :rolleyes:
Again, what are the chances?

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sendec
August 26, 2004, 07:39 AM
I do not think it is out of the realm of possibility, and a copper smear or fracture in a rock could be an indicator. There is also anecdotal evidence that tracers can start fires. And the always popular smoking while shooting.

Reading too much into this could seem awful defensive.

They aint woofin about catalytic converters, those start fires an oa regular basis. I am aware of one LE agency that lost a couple vehicles that way.

ID_shooting
August 26, 2004, 08:13 AM
LOL, I don't know about sparks on rocks causing fires, but I know tracers sure do.

We started several while I was in the Army and the worst foothills-fire in Boise's history was caused by a LEO shooting tracers into the brush.

mete
August 26, 2004, 08:15 AM
Tracers are quite capable of starting fires as are incendiary rounds but lead or jacketed bullets no way.Btw non- sparking tools which are required in some environments are made from a copper alloy [beryllium copper].

mtnbkr
August 26, 2004, 08:32 AM
Tracers or maybe steel cored bullets? Doesn't some cheap combloc surplus have steel cores inside the jacketed lead bullet?

Chris

Henry Bowman
August 26, 2004, 09:14 AM
If, as John Ross' character, Henry Bowman, in Unintended Consequences taught us, you glue an old fasioned cigarette lighter flint into the hollowpoint recess of the bullet and shoot at rocks, you can get a nice shower of sparks. I'm not suggesting that was what happened here.

El Tejon
August 26, 2004, 09:19 AM
I wish I could send them some of our rain!:cuss:

Rain, rain, go away, go out to the hairy-chested West and save the day! *glub, glub, glub*

rick_reno
August 26, 2004, 09:35 AM
I started a fire at a range with my Ruger Old Army, the patches landed in some dry grass in front of the firing line and set it on fire. There was no water at the range and the fire department had to be called. The range officer told me he didn't want me shooting that gun there anymore.

Edward429451
August 26, 2004, 10:04 AM
Copper is non ferrous as well as lead. Had to have a steel core or they're mistaken. Maybe the guy tossed a cig butt when he was down changing targets and it ignighted some paper trash?

SRYnidan
August 26, 2004, 10:23 AM
JUST TO CLEAR UP SOME MISCONCEPTIONS

1. Yes you can start a wild fire this way have seen Four at my gun club here in Las Vegas.
2. No the rounds do not have to be steel jacketed or cored to do this. I have generated major sparks with soft point 308 Win which should have neither.
3. Yes tracer or steel cored/jacketed ammo is much more likely to cause this problem
4. For those of you not from the desert south west when they say dry brush think of something that has baked in triple digit temps with no rain and humidity under 15 percent for months.

JohnBT
August 26, 2004, 10:39 AM
All it takes is for a burning chunk of powder to fall on the ground. That seems to be what caused the explosion of the unburned powder on the floor of the Glock test range.

John

Standing Wolf
August 26, 2004, 08:07 PM
My take on this is that NPR ran with the anti-gun slant on purpose.

Our hard-earned tax dollars at play in the cause of anti-Second Amendment bigotry.

Not_A_Llama
August 26, 2004, 08:20 PM
I'm pretty sure that common copper doesn't spark. Steelcore is a known fire starter, as is tracer and incindiary (obviously)..

41mag
August 26, 2004, 08:32 PM
My local indoor range has a magnet rule.If it sticks it doesn't get shot..223's out of an AR & 7.62 x 39 from an AK [yes I realize the weapon is irrelevant,but it's my anecdote:p )WILL spark upon impact w/the backstop.

el tejon?Send some up here.All we've had is clouds & promises for the last month.My lawn looks..,well,um "toasted" comes to mind.
41mag=too cheap to waste water ($$$) on sprinkling.

I've no idea if it's true but I read a car rag years ago where the CHP recv'd permission from CARB(?) to remove some of the catalytic convertors from their training cars.ie.they were setting fires driving around the training course.:D

JohnKSa
August 26, 2004, 09:33 PM
Sounds crazy, but I have definitely seen non-steel ammo cause sparks.

BruceB
August 27, 2004, 12:07 AM
The composition of the bullet doesn't matter, for the most part. The sparks from non-ferrous-projectile impacts are usually created by the fragments of the object struck, where the forces of impact create HEAT, and some of the fragments, if small enough, are heated to temperatures high enough that they become incandescent, and capable of igniting fires. Some rock types, particularly, are very apt to throw sparks when struck by bullets.

The area where the Andrew fire of yesterday and today is burning, is covered in dry weeds, and is NOT "forested" for the most part. It is desert country, and ANY spark is capable of touching-off a huge fire in very short order.

I too have started fires with tracers during military service, in country a lot damper than Reno, and also have seen copper-jacketed lead bullets throw sparks on many occasions. It does happen, and in super-dry conditions such as we in northern Nevada live in during this drought, all shooters had best be very conscious of the fact. This is certainly NOT the first shooting-related wildfire ignition in this area, and won't be the last.

(Patches in a C&B revolver???? That's a new one on me....)

juggler
August 27, 2004, 07:32 AM
THAT'S what I was looking for!!
The sparks from non-ferrous-projectile impacts are usually created by the fragments of the object struck, where the forces of impact create HEAT, and some of the fragments, if small enough, are heated to temperatures high enough that they become incandescent, and capable of igniting fires.
Makes more sense than a lead round generating sparks. The comment about just how dry that brush is was enlightening also......never considered that the 'brush' would be tinder-like.

Jim K
August 27, 2004, 06:46 PM
When a bullet strikes a hard surface like a steel plate or a rock, its kinetic energy is converted instantly into heat. That heat is enough to actually melt the bullet and/or that section of the target. Most of us have seen steel plates hit by ordinary (non-AP) bullets that have a deep crater and "splash" marks from the molten steel. Rocks that have been struck even by .22 bullets often show globules of lead that are the remains of molten bullets.

That is the way AP bullets work. The bullet strike melts the steel where it impacts and the tungsten carbide core goes right through the molten or semi-molten part of the metal.

Since the temperature involved in a bullet strike is enough to melt steel, it is certainly enough to ignite dry grass or paper.

So, if the country is very dry, either make sure your backstop is dirt rather than rock, or else put off the shooting session until the danger of fire is less.

Jim

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