Large Ammo Cache, Fireworks Hampers Fla. Fire Fight

July 14--BAYOU GEORGE -- A large cache of ammunition hampered firefighters Friday afternoon in their efforts to suppress a blaze that destroyed a house on Shores Road.

Flames cooked off an unknown quantity of various caliber ammunition in the home, sending slugs and shells flying haphazardly into the air. Bullets slapped off the brick walls, popped through the tin roof and pinged off a fire truck. They rained down on the dirt road and neighboring lawns and driveways.

"With all that going off, we didn't approach the fire because the lives of our personnel are worth more than the [property] damage," said Battalion Chief Darrel Wise with Bay County Fire and Rescue.

No one was injured in the fire or by the exploding ammo, but one firefighter at the scene reported having been struck by shrapnel.

It's not unusual for ammunition to explode in a house fire, Wise said. What was unusual in this case was the amount of ammunition in the home.

Wise said there were multiple rounds of several calibers recovered from the scene, but it was not clear how much ammo was in the house. There were also fireworks in the home, Wise said. The time spent ducking bullets likely contributed to the amount of damage to the house, which Wise said was a total loss.

"We tried to take defensive actions when we arrived because of all the shells flying around," Wise said. "If we hadn't had all that ammunition going off, we could've been more aggressive."

The fire was reported at 11:59 a.m. The home had burned nearly to the ground before firefighters felt safe enough to approach. A shed and a garage on the property were not damaged, but a mobile home next door sustained damage to its vinyl siding from the radiant heat, Wise said. A truck in the driveway was destroyed, and palm trees in the yard were reduced to charred stumps.

The homeowner declined to comment at the scene Friday. The home, at 5207 Shores Road, is owned by Gregory Berry, according to the county appraiser's website.

The State Fire Marshal's Office was at the scene investigating the fire Friday afternoon, according to investigator Tommy Barron. It was too early in the investigation to determine the cause of the fire, he said.

Copyright 2012 - The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.