One of the hazards of weapons training…

Fire-Hands-Screensaver_1…and one you seldom see discussed is fire. Not gunfire, the open-flame kind. Bullets, mortar and artillery shells, and even explosives simulators tend towards the incendiary, and military ranges tend to be on arid, non-prime land. Next thing you know, range fire. 

New Zealand has just had two wildfires started by its very small, but very professional, army. Chris Hyde reports:

A fire that has been burning for two days on Defence Force land near Waiouru began after army live fire training.

The blaze was the second to start after an army live fire exercise yesterday. A fire near Christchurch, which started about midday, engulfed 50 hectares before being brought under control.

Chief of staff Dave Harvey said the Waiouru fire is in an area called Three Kings that was “very isolated” and “very rugged, way up in the back block”.

The fire began two days ago as a result of artillery fire.

Harvey said the fire may have burnt area of 350 hectares over the past two days, but was now contained to a five hectare area.

via Waiouru Fire At Defence Land – national |

Extinguishers, shovels and sand buckets should always be part of unit range kits, but when the fire starts in a no-go impact area full of UXO, you don’t have a lot of options. Firefighters can only set a perimeter and let the fire in the impact area burn out (and hopefully burn up some of the UXO, most of which can’t be detonated by fire, but can be burned).

We used to do an airshow act which involved rappelling from helicopters, doing a bunch of wild shooting (blanks) and grenade-throwing (simulators), and then grab a guy and exfil by helicopter or (if the “rescued hostage” or “seized terrorist” — usually the air base commander — was game) by STABO. Sometimes we didn’t tell the commander in advance, if his staff were sure that he was a good sport. (They were only wrong once, but it was a memorable day).

But every time we did that, the grenade sims started the airfield’s infield grass on fire.

It’s hard to look like a killer commando when you’ve dropped your weapon to help kick sand on a grass fire.

People forget how hot a bullet, which has essentially been forged to a new shape by friction as it passes through a rifled barrel, really is. Unfortunates that get wounded by a rifle bullet are often left with a surprising memory of the bullet burning. In your flesh a red-hot bullet can actually cauterize smaller blood vessels. In grassy terrain, it can start a conflagration.

Not really sure what category this falls in. Good luck to the Kiwis both in extinguishing the fires, and in keeping rampant environmentalists from extinguishing training, both of which can be a challenge.