TEST OF OIL TANK UNDER PRESSURE CAUSES $1,000,000 CONFLAGRATION
Residents Within One-Half Mile of Area of Plant Forced to Leave Homes—Not Sufficient Foam on Hand to Cope with Widespread Oil Blaze
THREE workmen were killed, ten others suffered injuries and property damage estimated at $1,000,000 was caused by a fire which developed in the oil storage plant of the New England Terminal Company at North Tiverton, R. L., when a new tank collapsed as it was being tested with water under pressure. The resulting flood short circuited wires in a pump house and caused an explosion. The flames spread to seven oil storage tanks and a number of railroad tank cars on a siding, the fire continuing for three days until it finally burned itself out. Unsuccessful efforts were made to fight the blaze with foam lines and water was used to protect nearby houses, several of which ignited after an explosion that took place seven hours after the start of the fire. There was no foam or other protection provided on the tanks.
The fire officials at the scene were Chief John Hannon and Deputy Chief Daniel Leary, of Tiverton, R. I.; Chief W. H. Durfee, of South Tiverton, R. I.; Chief Jeremiah Sullivan, of Fall River, Mass.; Chief Irving Hammond, of Westport, R. I.; and Chief Joseph S. Lawton, of Newport, R. I.
The following apparatus responded: 500-gallon Maxim pumper and 350-gallon Reo pumper from the Tiverton Fire Department; Engine 10, a 1000-gallon American-LaFrancc pumper, and Engine 5, 750-gallon Ahrens-Fox pumper, and Ladder 2, American-LaFrance truck, from the Fall River Fire Department; Maxim pumper from Westport; Engine 1A, 750 gallon American-LaFrance pumper from the Newport Fire Department; and a 350-gallon Reo pumper from Glen Farm.
Lester Creaser, of Boston, with Howard Berkinshaw and Edward Jacobs, of Providence, all American-LaFrance representatives, came to the scene with a supply of Foamite’. The Newport and Glen Farm engines operated a foam stream, but as the blazing oil had spread over the yard, the foam was not sufficient to cope with the situation.
Chief Lawton, of Newport, past-President of the New England Association of Fire Chiefs, reached the fire just after an explosion had set fire to one of the Tiverton engines and ignited the side and roof of a residence. A line from a booster pump was used to put out both these fires. The blast of heat had ignited the suction and seats on the Tiverton pumper and the operator was forced to flee.
During the fire a water main burst on Route 138, the main highway from Fall River to Newport, and this greatly reduced the water pressure at hydrants adjacent to the oil plant until an engine of the Tiverton Fire Department was used to pump water around the break.
The tanks involved in the fire contained 5,072,000 gallons of inflammable fluids including gasoline, kerosene, and fuel oil. A one story administration building, shed, and pump house were destroyed besides the seven storage tanks and contents. One large tank containing kerosene escaped destruction. The plant was located on the shore of Mount Hope Bay. The towering cloud of dense black smoke could be seen for miles and crowds of spectators assembled on nearby hills. Residents of homes within a half mile area of the fire were ordered to vacate the premises. Train service on the Fall River to Newport branch of the New Haven Railway was suspended.
Firemen John Stewart, Thomas Whittaker. Frederick Westall, and James Duffy, of the Fall River Fire Department, were commended by Chief Sullivan for resucing injured workmen at the plant.
Assistance was rendered at the scene by the state police. Red Cross, and Salvation Army. Attornev General John P. Hartigan. of Rhode Island, has assigned Lieutenant John E. Baird, of the state police, to investigate the fire and determine if any negligence existed.
As an aftermath of the blaze the New England Terminal Companv has instituted suit for $750,000 against the Graver Tank and Construction Company, of Fast Chicago. Ind. the firm which was in charge of construction of the new tank that burst under the water pressure test thereby causing the disaster.
The front cover illustration shows a groun of firemen fighting this blaze, shielded against the heat by oil tanks.