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Old August 2, 2000, 06:03 AM   #1
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Hello, this is my first post here after lurking long enough to know somebody here will have an answer. This weekend I came home and noticed a strong smell, which turned out to be the last pound or so of powder in an eight pound container which had gone bad. I set it outside. About two hours later the fire department knocked on my door and asked about the smoke the neighbors saw. The keg looked like the powder had burned on the inside and melted the plastic jug. It wasn’t a big fire because although the plastic had melted down to a pancake, the label was not burned and is still readable. I knew powder could go bad but didn’t know spontaneous combustion was possible. Any ideas on what happened?
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Old August 2, 2000, 07:34 AM   #2
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griz, WOW! I'm sorry I don't know the answer to your question, but I do want to welcome you The Firing Line.
I'll be interested to know what happened also. Storing your powder in the oven is not always the best way, you see.
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Old August 2, 2000, 10:15 AM   #3
Art Eatman
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Plumb new to me! I've seen old powder which had been stored in horrible high-heat conditions degrade slightly, but never had anything burn or go bang.

I'd write the manufacturer and ask. At least it was more of a smoulder than a burn, indicating the inherent safety...

Puzzler! Art
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Old August 2, 2000, 10:45 AM   #4
Mal H
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griz - let me add my welcome to TFL, and let me add my WOW! I have never heard of anything remotely like this. Mind telling us which powder it was, how old, and how it was stored?
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Old August 2, 2000, 12:15 PM   #5
Mike Irwin
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The only thing I can think of is that it became contaminated somehow.

You may want to contact the manufacturer about this.

Beware the man with the S&W .357 Mag.
Chances are he knows how to use it.
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Old August 2, 2000, 12:31 PM   #6
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Thanks for the welcome; I’m sure I’ll enjoy it here. As for the details, the powder was Hodgon H322, bought about 10 years ago. It has a yellow sticker on the label that says: U.S. gov’t surplus Sug. Retail $53.35 (that sure tells how old it was) Lot # 1287 788. It was stored in the house in a dresser drawer. It did give some warning, I had smelled something before but couldn’t track it down until I opened the drawer. The metal top had rusted mostly away so I took it off and covered the container with foil to set it outside. It rained about an hour later and another hour later it burned or smoked or whatever. I don’t know if the rain had anything to do with "setting it off" but the rain may have keep it from getting hotter. Thanks again, Griz
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Old August 2, 2000, 01:26 PM   #7
Chris McDermott
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I've heard about that powder doing spontaneous combustion on a couple different places on the net. It's apparently left over WWII powder, that lacks the stabilizers and stuff that have been added for the past couple of decades to prevent fires from happening. There is supposed to be a distinct odor & color change associated with the powder going bad. If anyone has some it definitely needs to be continually checked, or used to fertilize your lawn.
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Old August 2, 2000, 02:04 PM   #8
Stephen Ewing
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Just a thought, but you said you left it outside. Is there any possibility that a couple of the nieghborhood rugrats got into it? Usually, just one isn't dumb enough for something like this by himself, but two can do some magnificently stupid things. Especially with magnifying glasses on nice sunny days.

Ah, the memories. Oh, the scars.

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Old August 2, 2000, 02:19 PM   #9
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Hey Steve, plenty of little ones running around but I don’t think they did it. If they did they were a lot braver than I am as the aluminum foil I put on top is now stuck inside the melted plastic. One would have had to double dare the other to light it, put the foil back on, and THEN run. Kids were my first thought too.
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Old August 3, 2000, 06:49 PM   #10
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The rain might very well have had something to do with it, like when a hay pile that got wet spontaneously combusts.

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Old August 3, 2000, 08:10 PM   #11
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I wonder if some of the acids used to manufacture the powder could have reacted to the rainwater? But then again if there was that much in it it would have gone bad years ago. As far as storage life of some WWII storage powders I STILL have some original H4831 and it is as good as ever. By the way my friend welcome to TFL!

Carlyle Hebert
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Old August 3, 2000, 10:22 PM   #12
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Not sure about gunpowder, but I do know that loosely packed coal will begin to oxodize quickly and catch fire if it gets wet. Please contact Hodgdon: and let us know what they say.
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