SPARKS FROM ELECTRIC DRILL CAUSE OIL TANK EXPLOSION
Workman Loses Life When Tank Explodes a Few Feet From High Tension Railroad Wires —Two Alarms Sent for Resulting Fire
EXPLODING with terrific force on October 5, a hole was ripped in the bottom of a storage tank of the Sylvestre Oil Company at Bridgeport, Conn, containing 86,000 gallons of gasoline, and a fire was started which threatened to develop into a conflagration. One workman received injuries from which he died later in a local hospital.
The oil hazard was feared for some time. The National Board of Fire Underwriters declared the presence of the Sylvestre tanks was a menace to the city and constituted a dangerous fire hazard. The Sylvestre equipment is located at the corner of Noble Avenue and Pulaski street along the banks of the Pequonnock River and but a few feet from the high tension power wires of the New Haven Railroad.
The storage tank, built to hold 250,000 gallons of gasoline, sent forth a roaring flame from the top which had been partly blown off by the explosion. An employee of the Excelsior Boiler Works of New Haven, who was suspended on a rope from the top of the tank, and was using an electric drill to install a foam system, was blown over the top of the tank to the opposite side by the force of the explosion.
Two alarms for the explosion were pulled from nearby boxes, both coming into headquarters at 4:02 p.m. Engine Companies 2, 5, 6 and 10, Truck Companies 2 and 3; Chemical Companies 1 and 3 responded with Chief Thomas F. Burns in command. When the firemen arrived on the scene the workman was dangling unconscious in the air, the rope holding his body.
Climbing up a 75-foot aerial ladder. Ladderman Michael Galla of Truck Company No. 2 braved the intense heat and the danger of more explosions, severed the rope from the man’s waist, and lowered him to other members of his company standing on the lower ladder rungs.
The force of the explosion ripped a hole in the bottom of the storage tank and a large stream of gasoline flowed into the dyked enclosure around the tank.
It is believed by Fire Department officials that the explosion was caused by a spark from the electric drill or a short circuit spark in the drill igniting the fumes in the tank, which was three-fourths filled with the inflammable material.
The fire was extinguished in less than twenty minutes through the application of foam powder played on the blaze from the generators on No. 2 and No. 3 Trucks. It was the first test of this equipment since its installation in the Bridgeport Fire Department and proved highly efficient.