Oil-saturated rag in the ammunition compartment caused one round to spontaneously combust
By Candace Sipos -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Anne Mossholder pushed her husband, Max, out of their house in a wheelchair, while their mixed-breed dog, George, climbed in the back seat of their car.
The couple, who have been living at 101 Beverly Drive in Frederick County for almost 30 years, had stunned looks on their faces as the heat from their car's exhaust floated against the falling snow.
"He didn't know what to make of all this," Mrs. Mossholder, 60, said of their 12-year-old pet.
The three had just been instructed to wait in their car while fire and rescue officials investigated an explosion in their gun cabinet and cleared the subsequent smoke from the house.
Mossholder, 69, said he hasn't been hunting since 2007, when his leg was amputated.
The couple had just been talking about giving the gun cabinet and everything in it -- two rifles and some unopened ammo -- to their only son, an avid hunter.
"Thank God [we didn't]," Mossholder said. "He would have been at work and it would have caught his house on fire."
If the incident had occurred while the couple were gone, "it would have developed into a big fire and we would've lost the house probably," he added.
The two were sitting on the back porch around 3 p.m. Wednesday when they heard a loud "pop," and came into the living room to see the ammunition compartment of the cabinet, which was locked, gaping open with smoke drifting out. Mrs. Mossholder put out some of the fire with a fire extinguisher and called for help.
"They were here within a couple minutes," Mossholder said of the responders, which included crews from two city and two county fire stations.
The couple smelled what Mrs. Mossholder described as a "smoldering fire" for about an hour before the incident but thought it was coming from an electric heater in their home.
According to William E. Pifer III, assistant fire marshal for the county, an oil-saturated cleaning rag that was stored in the ammunition compartment caused one round of ammo, still in its original packaging, to spontaneously combust.
While there were no flames or injuries, the Mossholders couldn't believe it.
"There won't be any ammunition in that thing [again]," Mossholder said. "I've never heard of anybody having shells explode in the original packaging."