Compressor Station Blast
An explosion, followed by fire, destroyed muen of the Cities Service Compressor station outside of Blackwell, Oklanoma, resulting in the death of three men and giving the Blackwell Fire Department, unuer command of Fire Chief George E. Gebelein, a strenuous job before it was controlled.
According to Chief Gebelein’s report to FIRE ENGINEERING, the cause of the trouble is attributed to the giving away of a header line in the five-unit plant of the Company, one of the key stations of the Cities Service Company, with bypass to different communities.
The plant, located about one and onehalf miles from Blackwell, included in its units an engine and compressor station; office building; a structure housing auxiliary engine and boiler; superintendents house; cooling tower; garage and garage machine shop. These may all be identified in the accompanying illustrations.
According to Chief Gebelein, he was about one mile south and a half-mile east, of the plant, heading west by automobile, when it “kicked off.’” To him the explosion took the shape of a huge transparent balloon, out of the center of which shot a whitish flame. He likened it to the atomic bomb explosion.
Chief Gebelein drove his car to as near the scene as he dared risk it, with his wife and friends aboard, and hurried on foot the balance of the distance to the scene. There was a great gash in the ground where the header line bad been; the compressor plant was involved in fire, as was the office and fire threatened the cooling tower boiler building and other units. Grass was burning all around the nineteen-acre plant and before the department, which responded promptly, could control it, the fire jumped the road, setting off pastures and high line poles.
The beat and flames were terriffic, Chief Gebelein reported, and bis men were unable to get close to the structures involved for about an hour. Plant employees warned the firemen that they “were standing over dynamite.”
Lack of adequate water supply further handicapped firefighters. Practically all they could do was to wait until the terrific gas pressure was gradually cut down and off, which put greater pressure on the large pipe lines.
Water is supplied by a three-inch pipe line running from the city limits. There are four hydrants but the supply was insufficient to provide effective fire streams, although firemen did some effective work at the north end of the garage. Later the water in the basin of the cooling tower was utilized, Engine 3 being located at that point and operating under pressure of as high as 200 PSI at the pump. This effectively killed the fire in and near the cooling tower.
The property loss is undetermined. One man lost his life in the blast, and two died the next day from severe burns.