Luckenbach Explosion Report
The National Board of Fire Underwriters has made public a 24-page report of the recent Brooklyn, N. Y., waterfront pier fire and explosion. This disaster, which occurred December 3, 1956, caused the death of 10 persons and injury to 244 others. The total property damage was approximately $10,000,000.
Investigation disclosed that the fire started in a cargo of over 25,000 pounds of ground foam rubber scrap, which was packed in burlap bags and stacked loosely near the center. The cause of the fire is attributed to sparks from an oxyacetylene torch used to repair cargo-handling equipment. Once the rubber became involved, the flames spread rapidly and overwhelmed the sprinkler system on the pier.
A violent explosion occurred on the south side. A large section of the concrete pier decking w’as shattered by the force and heavy steel sections were thrown hundreds of feet causing death and destruction.
The investigators later learned that a shipment of 37,000 pounds of “Cordeau Detonant Fuse” or “Primacord” had been stored at the approximate position of the craters. Since no other explosives w’ere found, the indications are that this fuse, which is classified as a “Class C Explosive” under Interstate Commerce Commission regulations, exploded en masse. The fuse ingredient, pentaerythritetetranitrate (PETN), is a high explosive.
The report designates the problems that exist and makes five constructive recommendations for future fire safety.