Blasts Mark Covington Gasoline Storage Fire
Eighty-four firemen from seven Covington, Ky., fire stations battled a raging fire for four hours on September 2, 1950. The fire was accompanied by four explosions that caused injuries to two workmen. The men, both pipe-fitters, were reported critically burned.
A spectator suffered a severe cut on the nose when struck by a hose nozzle. Two Covington firemen were slightly burned in the struggle.
Smoke from the burning petroleum storage tank billowed high in the air, wrecking the installation and one of the loading barges owned by the Ashland Oil & Refining Co. on the Licking River. The flames threatened to spread to other storages but were confined by fire fighters, working in a constant downpour of rain, and who several times were driven from their positions by the explosions.
The blaze apparently started when the company pipefitters were piping gasoline from one storage tank to another. Fire Chief Walter A. Salyers said a spark from a faulty pump could have been the cause.
The initial explosion of the tank’s 12,000 gallons of gasoline burst the container and spewed flaming gasoline, which ran free to the river bank, surrounding the barge, which ignited and in turn caused other blasts, ripping apart its decks.
Firemen were praised for their efforts in braving the flying debris, heat and danger of additional explosions. Exposures were kept constantly cooled and large quantities of foam were used on the burning tank and spill.
It was said that normally the gasoline would have been contained inside a four-foot concrete high wall surrounding the tank if a rain drainage valve had not been left open.
All Covington apparatus was at the scene, aided by three companies from South Fort Mitchell, Ludlow and Newport, which moved in to cover the city. Emergency utility crews shut off electric service in the area.