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Posted on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Witnesses say ammunition ignited during Ann Arbor house fire

By John Counts


Construction supplies lie on the ground as Ann Arbor firefighters check an opening next to the house and under a broken-out window after a house fire at 1800 block of Weldon Boulevard on Thursday.

Melanie Maxwell I

One room was destroyed and a house suffered a lot of smoke damage when it caught fire in Ann Arbor Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

There were no reported injures.

The Ann Arbor Fire Department was called to the home in the 1800 block of Weldon Boulevard around 12:30 p.m. after a crew working at the house smelled smoke, Battalion Chief Robert Vogel said.

One of the rooms in the ranch house was on fire and burned badly before firefighters had the blaze under control within about five to 10 minutes upon arrival, Vogel said.

A woman was evacuated from the house without injury.

There was a lot of damage to the home and the woman, who lives at the home with her husband, will not likely be able to stay there overnight, Vogel said.


Ann Arbor firefighters back up a fire truck as they load up a hose after a house fire at 1800 block of Weldon Boulevard on Thursday.

Melanie Maxwell I

Vogel was unsure if Red Cross had been contacted for assistance and said the residents will likely make their own arrangements.

Dave Barth, a laborer for Payeur Foundation, was working outside with a small crew to dig up and repair a portion of the water system when the crew noticed smoke. Barth said he went into the house and was startled to hear what he thought was ammunition going off in the room that had caught fire.

"I went in and saw the smoke," he said. "As soon as we opened the door, the ammunition went off."

Barth said it sounded like firecrackers, as did other members of his crew. Barth and the rest of his crew fled from the house with the homeowner.

"It was time to get out of there," Barth said.

Vogel said he couldn't say whether there was ammunition in the house, adding the investigation continues and that the cause of the fire is unknown at this point.

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John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Omg...don't you posters have anything better to do? Simple story about a fire and " possibly" ammunition going off and it turns into a national debate...get a life.

Ann English

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

At first, I thought from the headline that a house on Vreeland Road earlier had ammunition inside that ignited, that the firefighters who removed a rifle or shotgun from that house had missed the ammunition. I'm just glad it wasn't THAT house, after all. A thick electrical cord in use can make noise and cause smoke if it's even partially cut through. The electricity open-circuits, not continuing along the circuit. Kids today play with caps? Caps make loud noise at times and always cause smoke.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

Guns don't hurt or kill people, only ammo!

Boo Radley

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

House fires are news stories, and always have been. I can understand including the witnesses statements about the ammunition, but I hope the same would have been included in the article if the witness had heard aerosol cans exploding. As others have said, ammunition cooking off certainly gets your attention, but really isn't that dangerous.

Ron Smith

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

A home burned two houses from mine a few years ago. I knew my neighbor did not own firearms, therefore no ammunition. His garage burned first. We were awakened by what sounded like a pop corn popper on steroids. I don't know what made the sound, but it was not ammunition. Using an unsubstantiated witness statement as the article headline must be revealed for what it is; a clear example of media bias and sensationalism. Mr. Counts, you need to get out for a while and breathe the free air. Oh, and your journalism professor let you down. Respectfully,


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Modern cartidges (not "bullets," which are the projectile only) are filled with smokeless propellent, which is not an explosive, unlike old-fashioned black powder (which is the only substance properly called "gunpowder"). Smokeless is very powerful stuff, but requires confinement, as in the chamber of a rifle, to develop the high pressures needed to propel a bullet with lethal force. Now, if I were a fireman and I heard cartridges "cooking off," as it's called, I'd be nervous, and probably wouldn't go charging ahead, but the fact is, these cook-offs are not very dangerous, just (understandably) disconcerting.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

Shame on you this is all pure speculation, misinformation and fanning the flames on your part... booo... While not good, this type of thing wont kill masses of neighbors... we used to toss bullets in camp fires all the time ;)

5c0++ H4d13y

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:06 a.m.

I watched that episode


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 6:39 a.m.

Yep. And that website shows that bullets cannot cause harm in a fire!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:50 a.m.

"wow, ammo goes off when on fire...who knew." And it apparently goes off when subjected to other forms of mistreatment. See the winner of the Darwin Awards for 2012 (the Darwins, awarded for the stupidest ways to die, salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it...): See the last anecdote, the Cotton Patch, Arkansas story. (Some of the runnersup are pretty choice as well.)

Jim H

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:38 a.m.

See YouTube saami - sporting ammunition and the firefighter Sorry, couldn't copy the link from my phone. No more danger than from other household hazards.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

Mr. Counts, in light of this whole bur-ha-ha I certainly hope you will update this story on what actually caused the noises after the investigation. To many of us it just seems a continuation of the anti-gun rhetoric.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:35 a.m.

Or it could have just been a fire caused by an electric device with the short circuiting equipment causing the popping.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:37 p.m.

"There was a lot of damage to the home and the woman, who lives at the home with her husband, will not likely be able to stay there overnight, Vogel said." I hope the woman didn't take as much damage as the home did!

Soft Paw

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

The police had better evacuate the whole block. Inconvenient yes, but public safety is top priority.

Rugeirn Drienborough

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

Why stop with the block? If we're over-reacting, let's do a really good job of it and evacuate the whole town.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:32 p.m.

I have to assume you are being sarcastic ( pretty good though )


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:19 p.m.

Mythbusters episode 85: Bullets thrown into an open fire can explode with lethal force. busted The Mythbusters dropped a box of bullets with varying calibers directly into an open fire. While many of the bullets immediately discharged,, it appeared that none of the bullets could be lethal. Like the oven test, most of the damage was being dealt by the shell casings, which could not travel fast enough to be lethal.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

Jamie and Adam are always on point.

John Counts

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

I would also argue that ammunition exploding during a fire is a very significant detail and the story would have been incomplete without it.

Ann English

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

Back when the Ann Arbor News was a daily, hardcopy paper, an article was written about a farm in Saline, owned by couple surnamed Feldkamp. Two barns, a granary, and a tool shed were burned to the ground. The writer mentioned that neighbors could hear ammunition in one of the barns exploding. So, the ammo made noise louder than the crackling of the flames, since neighbors could HEAR it. No firefighters entered those barns in the meantime.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

The many comments here arguing that combustion of loose ammunition is not particularly dangerous begs the question why you consider it "a very significant detail". That said, the crew tried to do something dangerous in hopes of helping in an emergency seems to be noteworthy, and I suppose why they stopped is noteworthy too. Perhaps you meant to report that a sudden popping sound heard by the repair crew, which was interpreted to be igniting ammunition, caused them to rethink there efforts to enter the burning home. Wonder what the Chief would consider more dangerous-- igniting ammunition or untrained volunteers entering a burning home?


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:26 p.m.

Ok there John....You still didn't explain how ammo allegedly going off is a " very significant detail " and warrants it being in the headline. You can use all the politician type question avoiding tactics you want.But there's my question

John Counts

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:59 p.m.

tdw: Would an exploding aerosol can in a fire make it into a headline? The quick answer is: most likely, though each story is unique and playing hypothetical isn't easy.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:38 p.m.

Well, I never thought staff would make a comment then apparently refuse to answer a question regarding the comment.I often defend A2.coms reporting or lack of but it's situations like this that makes it real hard to do so


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:52 p.m.

I would argue that getting details correct is very significant to getting the story correct. If a "witness" told you that 3 children died in the fire and you reported that as a fact when in reality no children were in the fire, that would have an impact on your article and its "completeness"


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

Ok would exploding aerosol cans be a " very significant detail " ? would it have made it into the headline ? So please would you explain why or how that is a " very significant detail " that warrants it to be put in the headline would ya ? Other than it's just catchy

John Counts

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:32 p.m.

Barth is a witness, as were the other members of the work crew he was with. They were all there before firefighters showed up. The crew told me there was ammunition that went off in the room during the fire. The headline accurately reflects this. When I asked Vogel about it, he said he couldn't be sure if there was ammunition in the house because the fire had just been put out and there hadn't been time for a thorough investigation.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:55 p.m.

John....why do you have a problem explaining why that's " a very significant part of the story " ? you keep saying it but refuse to explain it

John Counts

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

Here: Your question is interesting, but one probably best asked of a fire official at another time for another story. It was about 10 degrees outside today and the fire crews Vogel was overseeing were trying to wrap up the scene. I got the basic information about the fire from him -- including asking about the ammunition, which he wasn't sure about yet -- and let him get back to work. I'm not sure if relaying that the work crew said there was ammunition in the house is 'sensationalism.' It's what I was told. It was a significant detail and included in the story.

Rugeirn Drienborough

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:39 p.m.

Your guy was there, but did he actually see ammunition? He heard crackling and popping noises. How does he know, and how do you know, that there wasn't something else in the house that might make sounds like that? You say the crew told you this. But were they in the house at all? Not according to your story, which states that only Barth actually was in the house. In other words, the rest of the crew were not in any position whatsoever to know what was or wasn't there.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:08 p.m.

Did you think to ask Battalion Chief Vogel if it even mattered if small arms ammunition was present? Your story seems to seek sensationalism where there is none. Fires are dangerous and devastating, and I'm thankful we have professionals who can fight them. They face many risks in fires, including explosive combustion of structure contents. Although burning loose small arms ammunition is not safe per se, it compares with firecrackers, not ammo ignited within firearms. Perhaps you could ask Chief Vogelt if he considers small arms ammunition particularly dangerous compared to other combustion dangers common in most households.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

The headline does say "witnesses say". It doesn't say that what they said was correct.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Too bad ALL is worried about is a headline that will get attention. It does not matter if it is true or not. Barth said he went into the house and was startled to hear what he thought was ammunition going off in the room that had caught fire. "I went in and saw the smoke," he said. "As soon as we opened the door, the ammunition went off." Vogel said he couldn't say whether there was ammunition in the house And what in those statements warrants a definitive headline Witnesses say ammunition ignited during Ann Arbor house fire Irresponsible lazy reporting!


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

Bullets do not "explode" in a fire, nor do they "shoot off" that is you will not be hit by a stray bullet from someones house fire from their box of ammo. They may and do make a "pop" noise, which is harmless. If your neighbors house is on fire the greater risk is your house catching on fire or you will die from smoke inhalation if you stand in their doorway, you will not have your eye shot out from their boxes of ammo flying off randomly. No one needs to "register" their "stockpile" of bullets.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

"Vogel said he couldn't say whether there was ammunition in the house, adding the investigation continues and that the cause of the fire is unknown at this point. " Why even write the article based on ammo going off? It could have been anything making that noise.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:42 p.m.

I know what bullets do in a fire. They get HOT. Because bullets are just the metallic projectile portion of the ammunition, and therefore not the least bit explosive.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.'s a catchy headline facts or no facts.Feeds the anti gun people desire to make dumb comments


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:16 p.m.

Because if EVIL ammunition is involved it is MUCH more sensational.....................


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

Before people get started commenting on things they have no clue of what they are talking about I'd like someone who knows physics will explain how " exploding " bullets are no where near as dangerous as people may think


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:47 p.m.

No Rod, if anything I think its because I predicted it.You know, just to prove me wrong.If you notice you are the only one to reply to my comment.Most thumbs down trolls here are gutless period.They hate it when facts are put to them.If I thumbs down someone and there are no reply's already I will give one.But I give you credit for replying

Rod Johnson

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

Huh, looks like you called that wrong, tdw. 32 thumbs up for zanzerbar's comment so far. I wonder why you get so many thumbs down. Think it could have something to do with all the insults and baseless accusations and contempt for other commenters your comments display?


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

you mean you want a rational response? The fear of the unknown about how bullets "fire" or work. I suppose just throwing one could shoot someone dead too!


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:20 p.m.

Zanzerbar....Yepper that's the facts.Wanna bet you get thumbs down for your answer based on facts ? ( the anti's really hate facts ).AND of course, no reply's . Thumbs down trolls are gutless wonders


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

When a bullet is exposed to sufficiently high temperatures, the shell case will burst apart but the bullet will not travel at high speeds or go very far if it is not loaded in a gun. The ability of a bullet to cause injury depends on the speed with which the bullet is fired, and much of this speed depends on the fact that the bullet is being forced down a gun barrel. A loose bullet or a bullet in a cardboard box will not have the additional pressure of the barrel, so while it may fire it will not do so forcefully


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:01 p.m.

Gotta love it. Two thumbs down already but per the norm here no replys


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

that should be " to explain " I wish there was a edit option


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

Anything with gunpowder in it (like bullets) will ignite and explode when exposed to fire...lesson learned...


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 7:52 p.m.

How do they know it wasn't fireworks? Seems like the fire officials could have found shell casings.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

or perhaps they found the bullets neatly packed in a box, like they came. Unless of course there was a body with a bullet hole in it and the fire was just part of a cover story to a suicide or murder.

John of Saline

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

That's not optimal.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

wow, ammo goes off when on fire...who knew. Clearly it wasn't properly scecured but hardly a revalation.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

Brad - your icon made me laugh...thanks


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:39 p.m.

Yep, black powder is for muzzleloaders and fireworks.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

Uh Dave thanks for your knowledge.First, modern smokeless ammo does not contain any " black powder " they are totally different.Smokeless powder does not explode it burns.Black powder explodes.And I highly doubt that you have ever heard ammo going off in a fire.I also highly doubt you know many if any hunters or gun enthusiasts. I, for the record have heard and know both

Dave Early

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:33 p.m.

Hunterjim, thanks for making the point about what is and isn't properly secured. Part of having a truly secure storage option in your home for any type of black powder item is indeed a gun locker or ammo safe that isn't just lockable, but fireproof as well. Any real hunter or gun enthusiast worthy of my own time understands and practices that. If this was even really ammo, which doesn't in the least sound like firecrakers when they cook off enmass in an ammo box.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

it doesn't "go off"


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:17 p.m.

It may very well have been "properly secured" just not in something fireproof. Silly comment.