Explosion of Gasoline Tank Car Causes Three Alarm Fire in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Crashing through a bumping block as it was being switched onto the East Liberty industrial siding of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Fifth and Hamilton Avenues, on May 25, a steel tank car containing 5000 gallons of gasoline dropped from the wooden trestle into a yard, a distance of thirty feet, and exploded, causing a serious and destructive fire, scattering the flaming fluid over the properties of the East Liberty Coal and Coke Company, the American Oil Company, the J. K. Davidson and Brother Sand Company and the Transcontinental Oil Company. Property of the Pennsylvania Railroad was slightly damaged. According to railroad officials the friction of the impact against the bumping block caused the gasoline to explode anti ignite. I he tank car was being shifted from the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad onto the industrial siding, the main line and industrial siding being elevated at this point when it crashed over the end of the trestle and fell into the yard and up against a warehouse in which was stored a large quantity of cement.
A series of explosions followed the original blast when the flaming gasoline, bursting from the wrecked tank car, ignited a number of 50-gallon drums of gasoline of the American Oil Company a short distance from where the tank car exploded. The burning gasoline made a trail of flame down Fifth Avenue extension and Hamilton Avenue but the firemen kept the flames from getting near enough to any building to endanger them.
Three alarms were sounded in quick succession, the first alarm at 1 :4i P. M., was responded to by Engine Companies No. 8 and 16 and Truck Company No. 8 in command of Acting Battalion Chief Julius Schott. Upon his arrival at the fire, Acting Chief Schott seeing that a dangerous fire was already, in progress quickly sent in the second alarm at 1 :44 PM. which brought Engine Companies No. 38 and 28 and Truck Co. No. 29 to the scene as well as Chief of Department Michael I–‘. Shanahan and Deputy Chief Frank C. Loxterman. The third alarm at 1:58 brought Engine Companies No. 34 and 14 in command of Acting Battalion Chief John L. Snyder making a total of Six Engine Companies and two hook and ladder Companies in service at the fire.
Disregarding the fact that their lives were in jeopardy by the possible explosion of approximately 320,000 gallons of gasoline in eight large storage tanks, the firemen with the flames licking at their bodies put up a game battle and checked the progress of the fire about an hour after the first alarm of fire. Streams of water were directed upon the eight tanks to keep them cool. Employes of the American Oil Company at the risk of their lives tried to drain the contents from the tanks, but were driven back by the intense beat. The East Liberty Coal and SupplyCompany’s warehouse, office and six automobile trucks were destroyed. S. L. Stark, secretary and general manager of the company placed the loss to the company’s property at $100,000.
Battalion Chief Fred S. Beckett who is in command of the East Liberty district was at home on a twenty-four hour leave of absence when the alarm came in which is only a short distance from the scene of the fire and immediately upon receipt of the alarm proceeded to the scene of the fire and took personal command of fighting the fire until the arrival of Chief of Department M. F. Shanahan.
A total of ten pieces of fire apparatus all motor driven and tractor drawn were in service at the fire as follows:—
Two American-LaFrance combination hose and chemical cars. Four American-LaFrance 750-gal. triple combination cars. One 700-gal. Metropolitan steam fire engine drawn by an American-LaFrance tractor. One 700-gal. Amoskeag steam fire engine drawn by a Christie tractor. One American-LaFrance 75-foot aerial truck drawn by an American-LaFrance tractor, and one American-LaFrance city service truck, in all, some 5700 feet of 2 1-2 inch hose was used, 450 feet of one inch lead line hose,
two hydrant streams and ten pumper and engine streams were used, as well as one fire extinguisher and 261 feet of ladders.
A total of forty-nine men all of the uniformed rank were on duty at the fire as follows:—
Chief of Department, Deputy Chief, one Battalion Chief, two Acting Battalion Chiefs (the regular Battalion Chiefs being off duty on 24-hour leave of absence) three Captains, two Senior Lieutenants, one Junior Lieutenant, three pumpmen, two Knginemen two Assistant Enginemen. four Drivers, four Chiefs’ Aides and twenty-two Hosemen and Ladder-
A sufficient number of Ludlow fire hydrants with single and double 4J-4 inch openings ranging in pressure from 50 to 65 pounds furnished a sufficient supply of water in extinguishing the fire. Seven-eight and one inch tips were used on the nozzles.