Houston Firemen Delayed Reaching Refinery Fire

Houston Firemen Delayed Reaching Refinery Fire

Firemen of Houston, Tex., and employees of the Eastern States oil refinery fought a stubborn 12-hour battle with a dangerously threatening fire that destroyed seven storage tanks of gasoline and critically burned one employee and sent two firemen to hospitals with burns.

Those burned were trapped when a second tank exploded while they were fighting the flames from the tank where the fire started shortly after 2:00 P.M., December 1. The injured city firemen were partially saved by their quick-hitch turnouts, which they were wearing for protection. A 34-year-old Stillman, who had safely fought nine previous similar fires without injury, was less fortunate and was expected to die.

The fire, described as “spectacular but comparatively minor as refinery fires go” by an official of the company, caused loss of $30,000 but gave the fire fighters some anxious moments when apparatus from companies 22 and 23 was blocked at two railroad intersections as it attempted to reach the scene shortly after the alarm was sounded at 2:00 P.M. One pumper, which managed to get across the tracks ahead of an H. B. & T. train, was bogged down in deep mud in the refinery yard. A favoring southwesterly breeze helped firemen, however, in confining the blaze within the four-foot protecting fire wall. If the wind had been reversed it is said the huge field of cracking units and twenty other storage tanks would have been in the direct path of, the blaze. Cause of the original explosion, which was heard two miles away, was not immediately determined.

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