Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on November 2, 2020.


Recent headscratchers from the world of fire and life safety

There’s nothing more annoying than a fly buzzing around inside your house. You can try smacking it with a magazine, catching it in a sticky trap, or shooing it out an open window. Or you can try to blow it up.

In September, an 82-year-old man was sitting down to dinner in his home in France when he noticed the arrival of a pesky fly. According to the New York Post, that’s when the octogenarian grabbed an electric fly swatter—a racket-shaped device that utilizes an electrifiable metal mesh to kill small insects. What the man didn’t know at the time was that there was a gas leak in his house, and as he pressed the button to electrify the fly swatter, an explosion occurred. He sustained only minor burns to his hand, but the kitchen and part of the roof of his home were destroyed. No word on whether the fly made it out alive.

A man in the Massachusetts town of Wellfleet made headlines in September when he dug up nine live explosives during a driveway expansion project. “To find one is not so much a big surprise around here, but to find nine—that catches your attention,” Wellfleet Fire Chief Richard Pauley told local reporters. Bomb technicians from the United States Navy identified the devices as “live, highly unstable, military-grade” explosives dating back to World War I, according to CBS Boston. Each explosive was loaded into a public works dump truck and taken to a local sand pit, where state police detonated them.

In the not-so-distant future, hikers who take a tumble in northwest England’s mountainous Lake District could be rescued by someone who looks more like Iron Man than a traditional first responder.

After a year of discussion and development between the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) and Gravity Industries, a first test flight was carried out in September of a jet-powered suit that allows paramedics to fly to their patients, BBC News reported. Experts said the cutting-edge technology—which features three cannister-shaped jet engines attached to the back and arms of the suit-wearer—could transform 30-minute treks to reach injured people into 90-second flights.

“There are dozens of patients every month within the complex but relatively small geographical footprint of the Lakes,” Andy Mawson, director of operations for GNAAS, told BBC reporters. “We could see the need. What we didn’t know for sure is how this would work in practice. Well, we’ve seen it now and it is, quite honestly, awesome.”

Twenty metric tons of chicken manure made quite the stink in September when it caught fire on a farm in England. Firefighters spent three hours battling the blaze, according to news reports. The incident recalls another farm animal feces–related fire that occurred in England in March, which was also duly reported here in the Oddities section. In that incident, copper inside a pedometer that had been attached to pigs to prove they were free-range reacted with the pigs’ excrement, sparking a fire that destroyed four pig pens.

While no cause was listed for the most recent English dung fire, it could have been due to a chemical reaction that can take place in manure, leading to combustion. After one such fire on a farm in the small town of Throop, New York, in 2016, Wired delivered to readers this memorable, forthright headline: “Crap’s Spontaneously Combusting in Upstate New York.”   —Angelo Verzoni

ANGELO VERZONI is a staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top photograph: Getty Images