Panic Among Asbury Park Surf Bathers— Two Volunteer Firemen and Chief Slocum Injured—Fire Blown in All Directions by Blast

THE worst casualty reported as a result of fireworks during the recent Independence Day holiday occurred, not to the consumer, but to the manufacturer of fireworks, when the plant of Frank Cimino, in Neptune Township, on the outskirts of Asbury Park, a New Jersey summer resort on the Atlantic coast, blew up on Saturday afternoon, July 5, killing four persons, demolishing four buildings, scattering fire among trees and brush in the surrounding countryside and causing panic among thousands of surf bathers at Asbury Park.

A spectator in a fishing yawl ten miles off shore from Long Branch, the next nearest community of sizeable proportions, heard a terrific detonation. Peering against a strong sunlight in the west, huge clouds of dense smoke were discernable hovering over Asbury Park. Motorists from miles around blocked all possible avenues of travel in their eagerness to drive to view the disaster.

Fire Chief Eugene Slocum, of Neptune Township, was the first on the scene with two engine companies, one a 750-gallon pump and the other 1,000 gallons. The fire, as a fire, was not difficult to handle as the two-story frame and stucco structures were but burning wreckages when firemen arrived. The hazard was in the problem of whether or not any more explosives remained to be ignited by the burning debris. The search for bodies was started without delay, while other firemen turned their attention to surrounding homes and bungalows that had been set afire from the shower of blazing fragments from the demolished buildings.

The roofs of two of the buildings sailed through the air and landed in two different directions. The nearest fire hydrant was 1,500 feet away—supplied by a ten-inch main with forty pounds gravity pressure. To cool the ruins was a much easier task than conveying the burned and injured to nearby hospitals. Two volunteer firemen were injured by detonating fireworks that did not explode until the heat from burning debris had reached them sometime afterward. The 70-year-old father of the fireworks manufacturer, the latter’s nine-year-old daughter and two relatives of the Ciminos. ages 12 years and two months, respectively, were killed. Five other persons were reported injured and one, a daughter of the owner, was missing.

Chief Slocum said the factory was licensed, that it did a thriving business in fireworks, principally selling to the summer resorts along the New Jersey coast that go in for professional pyrotechnic displays. Two buildings used for manufacture, another for storage and the fourth, the dwelling of the Cimino family, were laid waste. Officials spent most of Sunday, July 6, endeavoring to establish the cause of the sudden explosion. The entire Cimino household or what remained of it was too hysterical to even try to obtain a coherent version of what, if anything, had preceded the blast. The proprietor was in swimming in the surf at Asbury Park when the crash came. The scene of the disaster was visited by thousands of motorists on Sunday. The risk was not insured, Chief Slocum said. Chief Slocum was hobbling among the ruins on a crutch having turned on his ankle and sprained his foot in the urge to stretch lines and get water on the flaming wreckage of the factory that had operated successfully for eighteen years without a previous fire.

Remains of One of the Four Buildings Constituting Factory

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