Yesterdays post brought this thoughtful question from Hank:
I always wonder with all that black powder and sparks in one area...are extra precautions taken with swabbing, safe distance, time between discharge, et al?
It could ruin a great day to be half finished loading a gun and encounter an ember...
I'm glad you asked. Every agency is different, but the National Park Service requires that "black powder events" (like cannon fireings" be scrupulously supervised by trained "black powder safety Rangers". Training for such Rangers requires an intensive and hands-on two week course in the safe operation and handling of black powder, black powder small arms, and cannons. Refresher training (another two weeks) is required every few years.
Here's Ranger Keith inspecting Cartridge and Cap boxes to insure that they are empty as a group marches on to park property last year during battle anniversary. Rangers Keith, Christie, and Brian, our black powder Rangers, are on hand at all of our black powder events. They have eagle eyes and are absolute sticklers for safety. And all of them have extensive experience with black powder weaponry, from side arms to twelve pound light-gun howitzers.
Ten minutes have to elapse between shots from an individual tube. Yes, the cannons are swabbed out with a damp sponge rammer to extinguish any sparks or smoldering embers that may be left behind. Also to prevent those embers in the first place, cartridges are made from foil rather than flannel.
The safety requirements at the National Parks are absolutely inflexible, as many a disgruntled reenactor will attest. Safety of the participants, the visitors, and the park will always trump any other considerations, like "ooh ahh" rapid firing, or photographers trying to worm under the saftey line to get that perfect, though dangerous, angle ( I use a remote and a tripod for my pics).
The group that I most often videotape is from South Mountain State Battlefield Park, headed up by Al Preston. They are all State Park Rangers and are absolutely no-nonsense about saftey, which they achieve through practice, practice, practice, plus a large helpiing of professionalism.
So much for the sublime, now for the absolutely ridiculous. Here is one of my favorite videos. It nearly defies description.
"Give that powder a good bashing, luv"
Click here, and prepare to cringe.