By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore firefighters were greeted with a somewhat extraordinary situation — exploding rifle ammunition — when they arrived to fight a December 21 fire that broke out around 11:15 a.m. and effectively destroyed a Cloverdale Road home.
“When we pulled up, it was going off,” Fire Chief Ron Peebles said of the ammo. “One of the occupants told us there were two fully loaded AK-47s (7.62-caliber, Russian-made assault rifles) inside the house, so we had to start fighting it from a distance.”
Despite the potential threat of flying bullets, firemen made their way into the burning home.
“Our guys approached with caution, but they went ahead and made an interior attack,” the chief said. “I was right next to the window, outside the room where it was going off, and 10 or 12 rounds exploded. I was going to call our guys out, but then it stopped.”
He pointed out that loose ammo, of which there were an estimated 100 rounds inside the home, is less dangerous than bullets loaded into a gun.
“If bullets are in a gun, there is the potential for them shooting out,” Peebles said. “If they’re just lying around, with nothing to propel them, the biggest worry is shrapnel from the metal jackets on the bullets.”
The fire chief added that the situation, while not one firemen face every day, is not really that unusual.
“This is Alabama, and just about everybody has at least one gun in their home, so it’s not the first time we’ve seen this,” he said. “The most dangerous thing for our guys, though, was when the roof started sagging right above them.”
Peebles said a stiff wind that whipped around the area actually helped more than hindered firefighters, as it prevented flames from rushing through the structure.
“It was a strong wind, but it was out of the north,” he explained. “The fire was on the south side of the house, so the wind actually helped us out.”
One of the occupants told Peebles that she had plugged in a space heater in the house’s front bedroom, then had gone to the store while it warmed the room. When she got back, the house was engulfed in flames.
“We found the space heater, and we determined that’s where the fire started,” the fire chief said.
The blaze was brought under control in just over an hour, and firefighters were able to clear the scene around 1 p.m. A teenager who was alone inside escaped without injury, and no AFD personnel were hurt.