Category Archives: Safety

A Mess of Accidents, April’s Fools 2017

It’s been a while, and so it’s time for another Mess of Accidents, in which people go bang unintentionally, go bang in the wrong direction, in the wrong place, into the wrong person (indeed, anybody you shoot without having decided to use deadly force on that person is by definition the wrong person, or in any of a myriad of other ways, used a firearm to pin the tail on the donkey — himself.

Make what you will of the fact that these roundups are almost always all guys, even with more women shooting all the time. Do women use more intelligence? Use fewer and lower dosages of mind-altering substances? Or just not operate firearms with their heads up their fourth point of contact? Requires further research.

Anyway, here’s our shootin’ fools for April. Some of them are crushingly tragic; others are bleakly comical.

Long, Long Ago: The Range Jedi

This is an old YouTube, but it’s still as entertaining as it ever was.

“Seein’ as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and it can blow the acoustic ceiling tiles clean off, you gotta ask yourself one question: do you feel stupid? Well, do ya… punk?”

Lee Paige was not available for comment.

Item 7 April: The Etymology of “Expert”

Not to reprise the last bit of dumbassery, but unless you’ve been under a rock, or relying on WeaponsMan for all your daily news (not recommended… like the Pizza Diet), you’ve probably heard that an NRA pro plugged himself during training at the organization’s Fairfax, VA headquarters’ indoor range.

An employee suffered a minor injury when he accidentally discharged a firearm at the on-site gun range of the National Rifle Association headquarters near Fairfax.

The employee was participating in firearms training at the gun range at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Fairfax County police.

The man, 46, was holstering a pistol when the firearm discharged. He was taken to the hospital for a minor wound to the lower body.

Love that passive voice. “it discharged.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. “There I was, officer, mindin’ my own business, when that there FARR-arm up an’ started DISS-chargin’ issef. Don’t go doubtin’ me: I am a expert!”

A friend reminds us that expert comes from ex- , “former”,  and spurt, “a drip under pressure.”

We’ll just remind you that beginners often know that they’re beginners, and exercise a salutary caution around deadly firearms. “Experts” get complacent. Don’t get complacent; it can happen to you, and that’s how.

Item 8 April: But He Said It Wasn’t Loaded Dep’t

Teenagers playing with a gun. What could possibly go wrong? Well, this:

[17-year-old Chris] Perez was with several other juveniles at a gathering at a home in the 3900 block of Orchard Drive. Pennsylvania State Police at  Fogelsville said several juveniles were involved when a gun went off about 3:40 p.m. Saturday.

Perez’s aunt told The Morning Call that her nephew was hanging out with friends when one pulled out a hunting rifle and started showing it around.

[She] reportedly said the teens were passing the rifle back and forth to one another when her nephew asked if the rifle was loaded, and was told no. He was then somehow shot in the stomach, the aunt told The Morning Call.

Rushed to the hospital after the panicking kids finally called 911, where he died. No charges, at least, not yet.

Neighbors told 69 News WFMZ-TV that they saw a group of kids running back and forth from the home right before police arrived.

Geez, they’re too young to understand that old news doesn’t get better with age, and hiding witnesses or evidence never hides ’em for long.

Item 21 Mar: Stupid Is As Stupid Does

This one’s a lot like the mishap above, only with adults, in Mississippi. Local paper:

Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun said the men were showing each other their guns in the residence and one forgot the check the loaded gun when it was passed back to him. The man didn’t realize the chamber of the gun, which operated similar to a Glock, had been pulled back.

Ah, reporters. Where would we be without them? “The chamber of the gun, which operated similar to a Glock, had been pulled back.” What fresh glockenspiel is this? On the other hand, as annoying as they are, it wasn’t one of them that did this: 

When he attempted to pull the trigger to check the gun it went off, accidentally shooting another man in the back.

The guy is expected to recover. No word on how he’s getting along with the back-shootin’ polecat that gunned him down.

And one more thing: perhaps it’s a factor that this event occurred some time after 0200? Color us cynical, but we detect a whiff of Judgment Juice™.

Meanwhile, in Chicongo

HeyJackass.com reports that the criminal contingent hasn’t had a single “selfie” ND… all month. There were two each in January, February and March, and April is still young. And it’s impossible to know if any of the 155 shot and killed and 702 shot and wounded there so far in 2017 were NDs (and yes, these numbers are subject to change — in one direction, anyway).

“The Only One who Can be Trusted…”

Like many gunshows, Wanenmacher’s Tulsa Arms Show requires all firearms to be unloaded and cleared for safety. Because only trained professionals can handle firearms without shooting each other!

As we began to watch this, we were expecting the guy in the shorts to ND, because, after all, he was the show attendee, and the security guys are trained professionals. Right.

Watch as trained professional Brian Pounds (left in the POLICE sweatshirt) plays with a .22 and surprises himself with a shot, which banks nicely off the cinderblock wall and strikes fellow trained professional Rick Treadwell (seated far right, in POLICE sweatshirt) in the hand.

 

Apart from everything else wrong with this negligent discharge, where did Pounds get the idea that it’s okay to dry-fire a .22? It’s not okay, and risks damaging the firing pin and especially the breech face.

Don’t Dry Fire Rimfires, people. And when you’re a dumb-ass and disobey that, Don’t Point Them at People. “But how do I check a trigger?” Simplicity itself: snap caps. Too cheap for snap caps (Pachmayr sells a package of .22 dummys for a few bucks)? Try yellow #4-6 sheetrock anchors, aka drywall anchors, aka wall dowels.

Extra bonus: if there’s a snap cap or wall anchor in your chamber, you can’t shoot your fellow human being, dog, family heirloom, or anything else with the gun.

Forrest’s mama always told him. “Stupid is as stupid does.” This is a bushel basket full of stupid.

About the only positive thing we can take away from this is that dumb luck prevented loss of life, so it could have been worse.

We bet that whatever department these two sad sacks are on is really glad their POLICE sweatshirts don’t have the department name in big letters, too.

Hat tip, Miguel at Gun Free Zone.

Final Death of a Coward

He was a child of wealth and privilege, outraged at the idea that he might be drafted like the proles, and determined to lash out at the government and nation he hated: his own, the USA.

And lash out he did, writing a book with the idea that it would equip revolutionaries and criminals with knowledge to kill.

Powell, a rich kid calling for revolutionary violence, 1971.

Which it did.

Last year he died, which was belatedly discovered by his fellow Aging Boomers at the New York Times, who wrote a belated obituary for him on 31 March.

William Powell was a teenager, angry at the government and the Vietnam War, when he walked into the main branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan in 1969 to begin research for a handbook on causing violent mayhem.

Over the next months, he studied military manuals and other publications that taught him the essentials of do-it-yourself warfare, including how to make dynamite, how to convert a shotgun into a grenade launcher and how to blow up a bridge.

What emerged was “The Anarchist Cookbook,” a diagram- and recipe-filled manifesto that is believed to have been used as a source in heinous acts of violence since its publication in 1971, most notably the killings of 12 students and one teacher in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

via William Powell, ‘Anarchist Cookbook’ Writer, Dies at 66 – The New York Times.

A few of the crimes enabled by the Cookbook:

Powell seemed to struggle to absorb the idea that his book had apparently had an influence on a number of notorious criminals. One was Zvonko Busic, a Croatian nationalist who hijacked a TWA flight in 1976 while carrying phony bombs after leaving a real one at Grand Central Terminal that killed a police officer who tried to deactivate it.

Others included Thomas Spinks, who was part of a group that bombed abortion clinics in the 1980s; Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995; Eric Harris, one of the Columbine attackers; and Jared Loughner, who killed six people during his attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011.

Powell, a wealthy old man denying that he really meant it, 2015.

He Didn’t Know it was Loaded!

From the land of chocolate, cuckoo clocks, and lots of guns, comes a heartbreaking gun mishap story. At first glance at the headline, it looked like a new story. But, reading it, we had a sinking feeling: it’s just new people having the same old stupid accident.

The facts are simple: On 2 August 2015, a 23-year-old man was goofing around with a friend who was visiting from Brazil. The 23-year-old’s roommate was a qualified soldier, recently returned from basic training, who had hung his service rifle on the wall. The 23-year-old pointed the gun at his visiting friend’s chest and pulled the trigger.

The gun did what guns do.

“I didn’t know it was loaded!”

That’s what the accused told the court, and expressed his deepest regret  “for using the weapon as a toy.” It was too late for the friend, who was mortally wounded and died in minutes.

Both the shooter and the gun owner were found guilty of negligent homicide and sentenced to “conditional imprisonment,” a peculiarly Swiss penalty for major misdemeanors and minor felonies, that allows the convict to pay a fine in lieu of incarceration. (The fine is adjusted to the individual’s finances and the nature of the crime). The shooter’s “conditional” sentence was 18 months and the gun owner’s 360 days; if you don’t pay the fine, as we understand it, you do do the time.

Somewhat more ominously for Swiss in general, the prosecuting and defense attorneys in this case have found something to agree on: they are trying to end the century-plus-old practice of Swiss soldiers keeping their weapons at home. Accidents and crimes with these guys are very rare, but their consequences and rarity give them tremendous resonance in the Swiss media. Being neither Swiss nor resident there, we can’t gauge the likelihood of such an initiative succeeding in the Alpine nation.

What are all guns, always, people?

Story in The Awful German Language (mandatory Mark Twain reference). Story in the Even More Awful Google translation.  Thanks to the tipster in this case, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Aerospace Concepts for Firearms Safety

What can aviation teach us about safety? A lot, if we’re willing to look at what they’ve done, how they do it, and extrapolate from the concepts they’ve used to develop new ways of thinking of safety with firearms.

For many people, this is a dull subject, that they think is beneath them. “I’ve never had an ND, so this doesn’t apply to me.” We assure you that safety matters, and that no one is immune to mishap. Often the guy who has the ND is the same guy who read the same books as you do and who made the same “tsk, tsk” sound at the accident report on his morning news site. (Or who laughed along with us at one of our A Mess of Accidents roundups). Safety begins with the sober revelation that it can happen to you.

Reduction in accidents and fatalities

The numbers don’t lie, and once-occasional fatal mishaps have become extremely rare. The last scheduled airline crash in the United States that caused fatalities. entire years pass with no deaths. Even military flying, much more dangerous that airline aviation, is enormously safer that it was fifty years ago. Fifty years ago, the services thought nothing of losing a thousand planes and crews in crashes — every year!

Certainly part of the mishap reduction story in general aviation comes via the tightening coils of the airline-centric FAA, trying to squeeze it out of existence. GA aviators often joke that the largest office in the FAA, and the only one that has command emphasis, is the Office of Aviation Inhibition. But GA has tightened up on once-accepted practices such as flying after having a few sociables with the guys (in the 1960s, one in four fatal general aviation crashes involved a pilot with ethanol in his system).

But primarily, increased safety has come about by improving training and (especially) culture, making the safe decision the default one, and the one liable to be respected by colleagues.

Aerospace Safety Concepts and Technologies

Many concepts interweave to make the solid web of today’s air safety culture. But we’re going to focus on four formal programs that made aviation safer, and that are adaptable to professional and amateur use of firearms for self-defense, public safety, and recreation.

  • CRM – Cockpit/Crew/Complete Resource Management
  • ADM — Aeronautical Decision Making
  • Tool Accountability
  • LO/TO – Lockout/Tagout

To expand on them:

CRM is nothing more or less than using all the resources at hand, informational, material, and, especially, human. The co-pilot of 1967 was more of an under-pilot. He (and in 1967, it was always a “he”) was encouraged to sit still and shut up, letting a valuable safety cross-check from a trained professional go to waste. This video from the FAA describes the history CRM.

https://www.faa.gov/tv/?mediaId=447

Since being developed in the aviation world, CRM has spread to other fields where active risk management is beneficial, including surgery, anesthesiology, and firefighting. Why not shooting?

A primitive version of a CRM technique should be familiar to all shooters: even on ranges where only a designated individual can declare the range “hot,” anybody has the right and responsibility to call “cease fire!” in the event of an unsafe act or condition. This empowers all the shooters to be an extra set of eyes and ears for the range officer, who is (loath though some of them may be to admit it) only human.

ADM is an interesting term. It is, in fact, Judgment Training, something that many old-time pilots thought was beneath them, so research psychologist Allen Diehl renamed it Aeronautical Decision Making. Nobody’s going to be enthusiastic about attending training that questions his judgment, but who would reject the chance to get some new decision-making techniques?

One key ADM technique is to develop the skills to recognize risk-increasing hazardous attitudes, and to use an “antidote,” a sort of countervailing mantra, to back oneself down from the attitude.

Aviation hazardous attitudes include such things as:

Resignation — “Whats the use? Forget it, I give up!”
Anti-Authority —  “The law is stupid. Regulations and procedures are for the little people!”
Impulsivity — “Do whatever, but do it NOW!”
Invulnerability — “It has never happened to me before, so it can never happen to me!”
Macho — “The average person can’t do this, but I’m so far above average it doesn’t apply to me!”

For each hazardous attitude, there is an ADM countermeasure.

Against Resignation — “I can make a difference!”
Anti-Authority —  “The regulations are written in blood. They are usually right.”
Impulsivity — “Wait! Think first. In an emergency, wind your watch.”
Invulnerability — “It can happen to me if I don’t take care. The laws of physics apply to everyone.”
Macho — “Taking chances is for fools; I play it safe and solid.”

The adaptability of these to the shooting (recreational, competitive, and combat) world should be all but self-evident.

The last two concepts, Accountability and LO/TO are important because many accidents happen because of failures in firearms control and storage. The military, which has relatively few accidents (for this reason) despite a wider range of ability and maturity levels than you are likely to have in your home or business, has managed to reduce weapons loss and accountability failure to a rounds-to-zero level. Other Federal agencies that do not practice similar control culture have much greater accountability problems.

Some of these concepts have already been implemented to some extent in gun safety. We’ve seen a reduction in hunting accidents since the 1950s, and a great deal of safety training .

Sometimes, though, the training and improvement that has gone before is nothing but the foundation for a better level of safety to come. This is one of those times.

Where we can improve, In General

  • Reject the idea that the current level of accidents is normal. “Is gun, is not safe,” fine, but accidents need not happen. “Is Plane, is not safe either,” but they have made planes pretty damned safe.
  • Study every accident and scour the record for learnable and teachable lessons.
  • Develop a formal Firearms Decision Making system of judgment training, and infuse it into the training culture.
  • Develop a Resource Management program with tiers for professional and amateur firearms users, and for individuals and teams.
  • Provide Accountability and LO/TO tools to the general gun-owning public.

Some of these things are already happening, but only on a sporadic, ad hoc basis. We need to get the big organizations (NRA and NSSF) behind FDM and FRM in a big way.

Adapting CRM, ADM, TA, and LO/TO to Firearms Training

Firearms Resource Management — identifies the entire ranges of resources that are available to the sport shooter, defensive gun user, police officer, soldier, and other armed professional, and works to familiarize those gun users with how to identify and use these resources. Best done with case studies.

Firearms Decision Making — teaches using case studies of decision errors with tragic consequences. Highlights hazardous attitudes and the risks contained within, and provides tips for recognizing those attitudes in self and others, and countermeasures for each.

TA & LO/TO — provides safety-oriented training and equipment to insure that firearms are maintained under positive control.

Two Mechanically-Induced Accidental Discharges

The first happens in the first seconds of this video. The round goes downrange when the shooter cycles the action. His trigger finger was observed to be clear of the trigger guard by the RO.

The gun was pointed in a safe direction, and the shooter’s finger wasn’t on the trigger. The firearm discharged as soon as he cycled the slide.

Usually this on a name-brand gun means someone got creative modifying the trigger without understanding the difference between the degree that trigger is “imperfect” because of manufacturing tolerance stacks, and the degree that the trigger is imperfect because of designed in safety features, like positive angles of engagement on trigger to sear.

More than one amateur smith (and some pros who should know better) has “redesigned” the safety features clean out of a trigger in pursuit of a light, crisp release, using files or even just Arkansas stones.

Note that this occurred during a competition. The shooter was DQ’d because of the AD, even though it was equipment-based, not a result of his own action. But no factory gun does this; it has to be modified, and it has to be modified by someone other than a pro.

Second one, trying to troubleshoot an el cheapo Eibar knockoff of the Browning/Colt .25 in the shop, and as he cycles the rounds through to empty them, kB! He disabled embedding, so you’ll have to go see it on YouTube, but the plus there is you get to see the brain-dead comments (his and others).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fk1EjQMq16Q

Here’s what he says in the video description:

While diagnosing a failure to feed issue a deeper problem was found. The replica was true except the sear spring and sear. The original Browning/Colt used a leaf spring. This replica used an uncaptured coil spring. This spring was old and had just enough strength to catch the striker but not enough to hold it indefinably. This could have happened at any time! It could have been in a holster or beside the bed. Maybe in a safe.. Who knows! Got it all on tape. Please watch for a great example of just how quick accidents can happen.

We beg to differ with him on this. It went off with him handling it. Because he was handling it, and it’s an unsafe gun. It would not have gone off in a safe… probably not even if he left it loaded, chambered, safety off (which he might just have done).

PS: I am using live rounds not because they are live but because snap caps do not replicate all of the various types of ammo out there. I use the exact ammo that the problem was reported to be with. I don’t use dummy rounds because to diagnose a FTF problem you need 5-10 rounds for cycling. These rounds get chewed up over a short period of time. It is now [sic] worth it for me to take the time to produce dummy rounds. I now use a bullet trap for all problem guns.

That is, not to put too fine a point on it, horsefeathers. Wrong again. How many kinds of ammunition are there for .25 ACP?

His decision to bring in a bucket of sand as a Bubba’s Bullet Trap is not entirely a bad idea, if he’s going to persist in the belief that you can only bench-troubleshoot feed problems with live ammo. If you’re really going to maintain pistols and work on them every day for a living, as this guy says in the video he does, a Savage GT bullet trap is a good thing to have.

Can this gun be fixed? Of this problem, yeah, probably. Anything can be fixed, with enough effort and money. But why? Another problem will recur. It was low-quality and marginally safe when it was new, at least 50 years ago. Decades of deferred maintenance will not have done it any kindnesses.

We get guns like this from time to time in auction lots, and we have no earthly idea what to do with them. Some of them are not safe, as is, and they’re not worth fixing. Maybe we could weld them into a gun control sculpture and become a media sensation?

CZ Go kB!

Pistols are supposed to go bang, but not like this:

The owner and shooter are alright, but as you can see, this gun is a write-off. Closer look, with the casing laid on top:

The pistol is a polymer-framed CZ P-07. CZ-USA has, from examining the pictures, put the blame on the ammunition (Winchester white box ball, lot number Q4172). Winchester has yet to weigh in.

The lot number of the detonated case is Q4172. Another lot that has been reported to produce a kB! is K7190.

Facts and pictures from this thread at Reddit. More pictures after the jump.

Continue reading

Run, Hide, Fight… and You

osu-good-somali-2In the recent Ohio State terrorist incident (you know, the one for which the press is still assiduously trying to unlock the mystery within an enigma of the attacker’s motive), campus public safety officials sent a message to all hands: Active Shooter, Run Hide Fight.

We know now that the “Active Shooter” was an error, an error that, predictably, spawned giddy glee in the gun control camp. The jihadi had a car and a machete, and followed an ISIL attack protocol we’ve seen several times in Europe this year already, but he wasn’t a shooter. However, we think that (1) the campus cops were right to send that message and (2) run, hide, fight, is good advice, and it’s probably better advice for us (licensed or authorized gun carriers) than it is for the usual defenseless collegiate population.

Let’s take those two assertions one at a time.

The Campus Cops were Right to Send, “Active Shooter, Run Hide Fight”

“But Hognose,” we can practically hear you as we write this. “There was no active shooter.” We know now that there was not, and the cops may even have had a hint that there was not. (Or not; next paragraph we’ll explain). But even if they didn’t think there was an active shooter, it was a good call for several reasons.

  1. It helps produce the desired defensive behavior (run, hide, fight);
  2. It’s a lot easier to assume that there is a shooter than to know that there is not;
  3. Historically, jihadi attacks have often involved coordinated attacks, whether it’s bombings or small arms attacks. The first thing to look for when you have one attacker is his confederates! If he hasn’t got any, you’re not as badly off for your false reaction than you would be if you didn’t do anything, and he was one of a cell of ten like we’ve seen in some attacks, or even a pair, a more common thing.
  4. And they might have thought there was an active shooter.

Why would they think that there were more shooters at large? Well, they had, apart from the room-temperature suspect, an innocent person with a gunshot wound. (This was apparently a lost round from the policeman who neutralized the suspect).

Could the campus have done some things better? Sure. But they were right to warn the campus.

“Run, Hide, Fight” is Actually a Good Protocol

A lot of armed self-defenders see themselves rushing across campus to confront an attacker in a scenario like this. We think it’s a bad idea. Better to run if you are in “escaping distance” from the threat, hide if you are invisible and unknown to the threat, and only fight if you must.

Why run? If he can already see you, moving targets are harder to hit than stationary ones. Targets further away are harder to hit than nearby ones. Opening the distance may not bring you to cover, but it does improve your odds, as does giving your assailant a target that is in relative motion, especially laterally.

Why hide? If you can access a hiding place where you are invisible and unknown to the assailant(s), you don’t ever come up in his target array.

Why fight? There’s really one best reason: if you’re cornered and must defend yourself or others’ lives. Don’t go hunting the guy; first, you moving lets him ambush you. Second, if police or a hostage rescue force strike, and you’re on the X with a gun in your hand, guess what prize you just won? Finally, if you must (or get the opportunity to) pop the guy, one of the key questions prosecutors will ask as they review the case is, “Who was the aggressor?” Don’t be that guy. It’s potentially not self-defense if you’re the one attacking.

Mental Rehearsals and “Run, Hide, Fight”

It’s important to form a mental picture of what each of these steps would look like in any place where you could potentially be attacked. We have found the drill of “mental rehearsal” worthwhile. Consider, as you go about your daily business, what would you do if this place turned into the San Berdoo social services office, or the Bataclan venue in Paris. Which way would you run? Where might you hide? Where would be the most effective place to fight?

So, as you can see, the “Run, Hide, Fight” mantra also provides you a handy mnemonic for worst-case-scenario planning and preparation, or for your “mental rehearsal.”

It’s likely that you will never face such a serious incident as the faculty, staff and students of OSU did. If you do not, the time and effort spent on preparation is a sunk cost. But if you do, nothing but time and effort spent now on preparation can avail you anything at all.

Take care out there.

Fire in Tennessee — Narrow Escape

It’s not getting a ton of national media, but there are hundreds of fires in the tinder-dry mountains of Tennessee and western North Carolina. These are two parts of one video, showing the escape of one Michael Luciano, another guy and a dog named Red from fires in Gatlinburg. We think we’ve got them in the right order (warning, NSFW but understandable language). The first one ends with a tree blocking the road, and an attempt to run over with the truck:

We believe this to be the next element of the same escape. Just under three more minutes, more NSFW language, especially when they come to a car whose driver has frozen in the road:

Some thoughts:

  • While the camera exaggerates the bad visibility, you really can’t see anywhere near a fire.
  • That smoke is also full of toxic, invisible gases.
  • No one is coming to rescue you, when you live out in the woods and the mountains.
  • Ask yourself if the terrified driver in the car could have made it over the trees that Michael’s truck cleared.
  • There are several places in the video where one small error would have stranded even an off-road capable 4×4. How many of us have recovery equipment in our vehicles? (We think there’s an avalanche shovel, a relic of climbing days, and a coil of rope in our regular car).
  • How many of the owners of these homes — mostly second homes, cabins — had irreplaceable heirlooms in them?
  • You wonder how many pets got left behind. You can hear the dog Red’s labored breathing in the first video. You don’t want people dying to save dogs and cats (and horses!) but what do you do when, as the Luciano tape notes, you had no warning, and nothing was on the radio or TV until the fire was upon you?
  • Nothing you can do to prepare your property will protect it from a fire like this.
  • Professional firefighters are highly limited in what they can do to fight a fire of this magnitude. At one point, someone in the truck says, “They’re not even trying to put it out.” Of course not. They’re trying to do things that they conceivably can do. Saving these homes and this section of forest is impossible. 
  • Not living in the wildfire beaten zone of the mountain West is a double-edged sword. It means you seldom get fires like this, but it also means that after a couple of years of below-average rainfall, the whole forest is ready to go FOOM and nobody’s been building with a view to fire safety like they do where fires are an annual or biennial event.
  • The cabins are burning where the forest isn’t yet, because the flashover temperature of some part of the cabin was reached. That’s pretty normal — fire is lazy and burns the easy fuels first.
  • The professional forest managers’ preference for letting the growth go completely wild, and let nature manage the fuel, has its consequences. This is how nature manages the buildup of inflammable fuel in the forest.
  • Germany doesn’t have wildfires. If you’ve ever been in a German forest, you understand why. (It doesn’t hurt that the climate is usually temperate and humid with plenty of precipitation, but then, so is Tennessee).
  • While fires like this can be started by electrical storms, or careless campers, most of these fires are thought to have been deliberately started.
  • Once they’re going, though, they’re a Force of Nature. Man stands against Nature at his own peril.

This was an extremely narrow escape. It was made possible by a sturdy truck, a timely (well, maybe not timely, but not too late) decision to go, and the blind luck of an open road. The lives of the people in this vehicle stood on a tripod, of which only two legs were at all in their control. Relying on blind luck (or Divine Providence) often works, but it’s never guaranteed. When wildfires rage in your community, it’s probably a good time to go stay with friends or relatives hundreds or thousands of miles away. The whole world never burns at once.

Gun Safety: Doing it Wrong

ND-shot-in-footThis story goes a long way to explain why Homo sapiens has not evolved into some benign master race. He’s been going in the other direction, as the first two words of the news headline suggests: “Florida Man…”

A Tampa police report says Joaquin Mendez, 23, put on the [allegedly bullet-proof] vest late Saturday and “wondered aloud whether it still worked.”

Police say his cousin, Alexandro Garibaldi, 24, pulled out a gun and responded, “Let’s see.”

Officers found Mendez outside the house with a gunshot wound in his chest. Mendez died at a hospital.

Well, we guess that’s a confirmed “no” on the bullet-proof bit. So it’s just an accident, if an unfortunate one. No one to arrest here, right?

Uh, wrong:

According to the report, Garibaldi initially told officers he found his wounded cousin after hearing a gunshot. However, police say a witness described Garibaldi shooting Mendez.

Police say the vest was found inside the house with a gunshot.

Garibaldi was held Sunday without bond on a manslaughter charge. Hillsborough County jail records didn’t show whether he had an attorney.

Moral of story: lying may work for people who have their name on skyscrapers or who have shadowy foundations full of slush money, incorporated in third-world tax havens like Canuckistan. But it probably isn’t going to work for you. That lie was probably the single element of the crime that catapulted Garibaldi from a negligent homicide rap that he could probably have plea-bargained down to a misdemeanor, and the manslaughter charge he’s wearing right now.

Mama Gump used to say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” No word on who was holding Garibaldi’s and Mendez’s beers, and watching this.