Oil Explosion and Fire at Bayonne.
Bayonne, N. J., had another oil fire on the evening of Nov. 6, when one of the Standard Oil tanks at Constable Hook exploded. Although the terrific concussion was enough to arouse all the population for miles around, the big siren whistle of the Standard Oil Company kept up a deafening screach for half an hour. Upon reaching the spot the Bayonne fire department found two oil tanks emitting columns of flame. Most of the 6,000 employes of the plants were in the crowd, for it is a strict rule of the Standard Oil Company that at the sound of the whistle every employe within hearing must report at the works. The leaping flames lighted up the nearby section of Bayonne and cast a glare over the waters of the Kill von Kull to the Staten Island shore. By their light the watchers could see half a dozen tugs pulling and hauling at as many tank steamers which lay at the piers on the edge of the oil yards. Several of these were laden with oil, and , there was danger that their contents would take fire. Men were at. work.on the pumps, taking the. gasoline from the blazing tanks through pipes into other storage tanks in the hope of quelling the fire by diminishing its fuel. But despite their efforts the flames continued to mount skyward with no apparent diminution, drops of liquid fire occasionally flying away from the column of flame, to drop and writhe about the ground near the base of the tanks, a menace to other tanks and to the steamers which the tugs were drawing away. Meantime the underground system established at the plant ten years ago, after a somewhat similar fire that raged for a week, was put into operation. A number of pipes are connected with the various tanks, and the arrangement is such that the supply of oil can be drawn off in a comparatively short time. There are 250 tanks in the plant. The tanks which exploded were so situated as to cause a conflagration that might have wiped out the entire plant had it not been for this underground mechanism. What caused the explosion is not known. It was followed by explosion after explosion until six or seven “agitators” and about a dozen tanks had blown up. The “agitators,” in which the oil is treated, each contain 2.500 barrels of oil and the small tanks each hold a similar quantity. Even when additional lines of hose were run into the yards by the regular firemen and many more streams were directed against the flames the fire continued to spread. It was late on the following day when the flames were completely extinguished. In all about twenty tanks and their contents were destroyed, and the oil consumed was close to a million gallons. This and the tanks are said to have represented a loss of $200,000. Explosions at Constable Hook are of frequent occurrence, although every known precaution is taken to prevent such disaster. On this page will be seen a photograph taken for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING while the fire was in progress. Superintendent Allen, in the employ of the company, was caught by the flames and severely burned about the face and hands while directing a gang of men. Thomas Wagner, another man burned, was on top of a tank just before it exploded, and when it blew up it was feared that he had been killed, but he was found later alive, although severely burned. A call was sent to the Bayonne Hospital for ambulances, and those were quickly sent with surgeons. The police reserves were rushed to the plant, and they had their hands full in controlling the great throngs of spectators that soon gathered and preventing them from interfering with the work of the firemen. Allen and Wagner were taken to the hospital.
The accident occurred in Allen’s yard in two tanks. These are cast iron, barrel-shaped receptacles, about twenty feet high, and probably fifty feet in diameter. Each held 20,000 barrels of gasoline.