Costly July Fourth Weekend
The four-day Fourth of July weekend was the most deadly holiday period in the nation’s history, with highway traffic the biggest killer. A total of 793 persons met death between 6:00 P.M. Friday and midnight Tuesday, it is disclosed.
Of these, 491 died as a result of automobile accidents; 179 were drowned and 122 perished in miscellaneous accidents. Only one person was reported killed by fireworks.
Fireworks, however, were responsible for many injuries, and considerable destruction from fire. A partial accounting includes these incidents:
DETROIT, Mich.—Two fugitives from the Boys Vocational School at Lansing, Mich., admitted that they plotted to dynamite the institution on July 4 “just to make some noise ourselves.” They looted gasoline stations and stores, after escaping from the school June 25th. Authorities found sticks of dynamite, caps and fuses hidden in an abandoned truck in the woods, in which they had lived since fleeing school.
BRAZIL, Ind.—A keg of black powder exploded in a premature July 4th celebration, on the night of the 3rd, injuring eight children and four adults. A 33year-old man was throwing powder from the keg on a bonfire in front of his home. Spilled powder ignited and the flames spread back to the keg, which blew up.
DANBURY, Conn.—An exploding firecracker on June 29th put out the left eye of 7-year-old Richard Gehrig of Brookfield. The firecracker exploded in a can of sand which caught the child at close range.. An emergency operation failed to save the eye.
WESTFIELD, N. J.—Six teen-age boys were booked in Juvenile Court after police discovered a cache of fireworks and powder and other materials for making them in the cellar of the home of one of the youths. Fire Chief William Linden said the cache was found after a several weeks search for the source of fireworks that have been discharged there. Police gained access to the home on the pretext of investigating safety and fire regulations. The cache included two small kegs of black powder; 51 four-inch aerial bombs, 42 onepound rockets; 72 floodlight aerial bombs; 8 smoke bombs; 2,500 2-in fire crackers; 2,000 salutes of various types; one drum of potassium chloride; one box of antimony trisulphide and numerous other skyrockets and fireworks compounds.
SEATTLE, Wash.—Touched off by a firecracker, an explosion and fire on July 3 caused heavy damage to three houses, two garages and a house trailer. In another incident involving fireworks, a 31year-old man suffered a severe leg injury when a large firecracker exploded.
A firecracker, apparently set off in a shed, started a fire in drums of fuel oil, which exploded. The fire in turn ignited neighboring houses and garages.
FLINT, MICH.-A fire that caused $15,000 loss on June 26th was blamed on children playing with fireworks. The fire damaged a coal storage building. About 200 employees of a nearby industrial plant were sent home as a safety measure. Flames threatened the adjacent Standard Oil Co.’s bulk plant.
Senior Fire Inspector Harold C. Chirgwin said there was some concern the fire might ignite 100,000 gallons of gasoline in storage.
Children playing in the area turned in the first alarm, responded to by Station 4. Soon after, additional help was summoned from Stations 1, 2, 3 and 4. Twelve 2 1/4-inch lines were operated on the fire by firemen manning 5 pumpers, 4 ladder trucks and a rescue truck. Assistant Chief Calvin Johnson and Battalion Chief Robert Smith directed the fire fighters.
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Persons in the neighborhood reported seeing children playing with fireworks in the highly hazardous area before the fire and from the evidence, firemen blamed the fire on sparklers. The sparks emitted from the sparklers are not dangerous, fire department investigators reported, but the wire on which the powder is fastened becomes red hot and can ignite wood or similar substances.
MAYWOOD, N. J.—Police were busy investigating the shooting of fireworks in the Borough, which in one instance resulted in the first local firecracker injury in years. A 5-year-old lad suffered injuries when a group of boys placed a lighted firecracker in his back pocket. It was disclosed that fireworks were brought in from out-of-the-state.
RICHMOND, IND.—Four men were injured by the explosion of more than half the fireworks of the American Legion’s Fourth of July celebration in one blast, on the night of the Fourth. Two spectators and two employees of the fireworks company were burned by the explosion of an aerial bomb in a 12-in. gun. This set off a crazy quilt display of rockets, and bombs, but other persons in the crowd of 15,000 at Glenn Miller park escaped injury. No fires ensued, Two other persons were burned by fireworks at their homes the same evening.
MISSION, S. D.—The first death in the nation directly attributable to fireworks over the July Fourth holidays was reported from here. John Larson, 55, Mission farmer was the victim. He died en route to a hospital after a large fireworks display of an American flag exploded at the annual community Fourth of July display near here. The display blew up in his face. The celebration was called off after the accident.
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—-Orville Willis, 52, a representative of a fireworks display company was seriously injured the night ot the Fourth as a result of an explosion Ot fireworks at Starlight Theatre, in Swope Park.
CONWAY, Mass.—Fire destroyed the 92 year-old town hall here July 4th am almost ruined the big holiday celebra tion, which was to dedicate a new swim ming pool in the little community Barely enough water was left in the town dam after the fire was put out to open the pool.
Valuable town records dating back t 1767 were saved as fire raced througl the wooden town hall. Firemen fron five hranklin County towns fought th blaze for almost three hours before controlling it. Fire Chief William J. Fitzgerald blamed the fire on a short circui in an auxiliary lighting system althougl there was some talk of fireworks. With the fire siren in the hall out of commission, volunteers had to be routed out o bed by telephone. Property loss was reported at over $40,000.
STATEN ISLAND, N. Y.—Flames race, through a Tottenville, S. I., junk-yard the afternoon of the Fourth, spreading By the time firemen arrived two nearby homes also were destroyed. Cause?— fireworks plus children suspected.