There are 2 significant events to remember today (4/16).
The first is Texas City, Texas Disaster- 4-16-1947
“”The morning of 16 April 1947 dawned clear and crisp, cooled by a brisk north wind. Just before 8:00 A.M., longshoremen removed the hatch covers on Hold 4 of the French Liberty ship Grandcamp as they prepared to load the remainder of a consignment of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Some 2,300 tons were already onboard, 880 of which were in the lower part of Hold 4. The remainder of the ship’s cargo consisted of large balls of sisal twine, peanuts, drilling equipment, tobacco, cotton, and a few cases of small ammunition. No special safety precautions were in focus at the time. Several longshoremen descended into the hold and waited for the first pallets holding the 100-pound packages to be hoisted from dockside. Soon thereafter, someone smelled smoke. A plume was observed rising between the cargo holds and the ships hull, apparently about seven or eight layers of sacks down. Neither a gallon jug of drinking water nor the contents of two fire extinguishers supplied by crew members seemed to do much good. As the fire continued to grow, someone lowered a fire hose, but the water was not turned on. Since the area was filling fast with smoke, the longshoremen were ordered out of the hold. While Leonard Boswell, the gang foreman, and Peter Suderman, superintendent of stevedores, discussed what action to take, the master, or captain, of the Grandcamp appeared and stated in intelligible English that he did not want to put out the fire with water because it would ruin the cargo. Instead, he elected to suppress the flames by having the hatches battened and covered with tarpaulins, the ventilators closed, and the steam system turned on. At the masters request, stevedores started removing cases of small arms ammunition from Hold 5 as a precautionary measure. As the fire grew, the increased heat forced the stevedores and some crew members to leave the ship. The Grandcamp’s whistle sounded an alarm that was quickly echoed by the siren of the Texas City Terminal Railway Company. despite a strike by the telephone workers, Suderman, seriously concerned by now, managed to reach the Fire Department and then called Galveston for a fire boat.
It was now about 8:30. At this point, growing pressure from the compressed steam fed into Hold 4 blew off the hatch covers, and a thick column of orange smoke billowed into the morning sky. Attracted by its unusual color and the sirens, several hundred onlookers began gathering a few hundred feet away at the head of the ship. Twenty-six men and the four trucks of the Volunteer Fire Department, followed by the Republic Oil Refining Company fire-fighting team, arrived on the scene and set up their hoses. A photograph taken at approximately 8:45 shows at least one stream playing on the deck of theGrandcamp, which was apparently hot enough to vaporize the water.
Around 9:00, flames erupted from the open hatch, with smoke variously described as “a pretty gold, yellow color” or as “orange smoke in the morning sunlight…beautiful to see.” Twelve minutes later, the Grandcamp disintegrated in a prodigious explosion heard as far as 150 miles distant. A huge mushroom like cloud billowed more than 2,ooo feet into the morning air, the shockwave knocking two light planes flying overhead out of the sky. A thick curtain of steel shards scythed through workers along the docks and a crowd of curious onlookers who had gathered at the head of the slip at which the ship was moored. Blast over pressure and heat disintegrated the bodies of the firefighters and ship’s crew still on board. At the Monsanto plant, located across the slip, 145 of 450 shift workers perished. A fifteen-foot wave of water thrust from the slip by the force of the blast swept a large steel barge ashore and carried dead and injured persons back into the turning basin as it receded. Fragments of the Grandcamp, some weighing several tons, showered down throughout the port and town for several minutes, extending the range of casualties and property damage well into the business district, about a mile away. Falling shrapnel bombarded buildings and oil storage tanks at nearbyrefineries, ripping open pipes and tanks of flammable liquids and starting numerous fires. After the shrapnel, flaming balls of sisal and cotton from the ships cargo fell out of the sky, adding to the growing conflagration.
The sheer power of the explosion and the towering cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky told everyone within twenty miles that something terrible had happened. People on the street in Galveston were thrown to the pavement, and glass store fronts shattered. Buildings swayed in Baytown fifteen miles to the north. The towering smoke column served as a grim beacon for motorists driving along the Houston-Galveston highway, some of whom immediately turned toward Texas City to help. In Texas City itself, stunned townspeople who started toward the docks soon encountered wounded persons staggering out of the swirling vortex of smoke and flame, most covered with a thick coat of black, oily water. many agonizing hours were to pass before a semblance of order began to replace the shock and confusion caused by this totally unexpected and devastating event.
As the surge of injured quickly overwhelmed the towns three small medical clinics, the city auditorium was pressed into service as a makeshift first-aid center. Within an hour doctors, nurses, and ambulances began arriving unsummoned from Galveston and nearby military bases. Serious casualties were taken to Galveston hospitals and later to military bases and even to Houston, fifty miles away. State troopers and law enforcement officers from nearby communities helped Texas City’s seventeen-man police force maintain order and assisted in search and rescue.
The horror was not over yet. As help poured into Texas City, no one gave much thought to another Liberty ship tied up in the adjoining slip. The High Flyer was loaded with sulfur as well as a thousand tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. The force of the Grandcamp’sexplosion had torn the High Flyer from its moorings and caused it to drift across the slip, where it lodged against another vessel, the Wilson B. Keene. The High Flyer was severely damaged, but many of its crew members, although injured, remained on board for about an hour until the thick, oily smoke and sulfur fumes drifting across the waterfront forced the master to abandon ship. Much later in the afternoon, two men looking for casualties boarded the High Flyer and noticed flames coming from one of the holds. Although they reported this to someone at the waterfront, several more hours passed before anyone understood the significance of this situation, and not until 11:00 P.M. did tugs manned by volunteers arrive from Galveston to pull the burning ship away from the docks. Even though a boarding party cut the anchor chain, the tugs were unable to extract the ship from the slip. By 1:00 A.M. on 17th April, flames were shooting out of the hold. The tugs retrieved the boarders, severed tow lines, and moved quickly out of the slip. Ten minutes later, theHigh Flyer exploded in a blast witnesses thought even more powerful than that of theGrandcamp. Although casualties were light
because rescue personnel had evacuated the dock area, the blast compounded already severe property damage. In what witnesses described as something resembling a fireworks display, incandescent chunks of steel which had been the ship arched high into the night sky and fell over a wide radius, starting numerous fires. Crude oil tanks burst into flames, and a chain reaction spread fires to other structures previously spared damage. When dawn arrived, large columns of thick, black smoke were visible thirty miles away. These clouds hovered over Texas City for days until the fires gradually burned out or were extinguished by weary fire-fighting crews.
The Grandcamp’s explosion triggered the worst industrial disaster, resulting in the largest number of casualties, in American history. Such was the intensity of the blasts and the ensuing confusion that no one was able to establish precisely the number of dead and injured. Ultimately, the Red Cross and the Texas Department of Public Safety counted 405 identified and 63 unidentified dead. Another 100 persons were classified as “believed missing” because no trace of their remains was ever found. Estimates of the injured are even less precise but appear to have been on the order of 3,500 persons. Although not all casualties were residents of Texas City, the total was equivalent to a staggering 25 percent of the towns estimated population of 16,000. Aggregate property loss amounted to almost $100 million, or more than $700 million in todays monetary value. Even so, this figure may be to low, because this estimate does not include 1.5 million barrels of petroleum products consumed in flames, valued at approximately $500 million in 1947 terms. Refinery infrastructure and pipelines, including about fifty oil storage tanks, incurred extensive damage or total destruction. The devastated Monsanto plant alone represented about $ 20 million of the total. Even though the port’s break-bulk cargo-handling operations never resumed, Monsanto was rebuilt in little more than a year, and the petrochemical industry recovered quickly. One-third of the town’s 1,519 houses were condemned, leaving 2,000 persons homeless and exacerbating an already-serious postwar housing shortage. Over the next six months, displaced victims returned as houses were repaired or replaced, and most of those who suffered severe trauma appear to have recovered relatively quickly. What could never be made good was the grief and bleak future confronting more than 800 grieving widows, children, and dependent parents.””
There were 29 Firefighter LODDs, and their Lessons learned are as important today as they were in 1947.
Fire Chief Henry J. Baumgartner
Assistant Chief Joseph Milton Braddy
Captain Sebastian B. Nunez
Captain William Carl Johnson
Lieutenant Marshall B. Stafford
Lieutenant William D. Pentycuff
Private Zolan Davis
Private William C. O’Sullivan
Private Roy Louis Durio
Private Marcel Pentycuff
Private Archie Boyce Emsoff
Private Harvey Alonzo Menge
Private Henry John Findeisen
Private Jimmy Reddicks
Private Virgil D. Fereday
Private Robert Dee Smith
Private Edward Henry Henricksen
Private Joel Clifton Stafford
Private William Fred Hughes
Private Maurice R. Neely
Private Lloyd George Cain
Private Marion D. Westmoreland
Private Frank P. Jolly
Private Clarence J. Wood
Private William Louis Kaiser
Private Clarence Rome Vestal
Private Jacob Otto Meadows
Much more info HERE, HERE, HERE
The 2nd Significant Incident was in Prince William County, VA 4-16-2007, That took the Life Kyle Wilson.
There are too many Lessons Learned to List here, PLEASE go and do your own information and Research and FIND, KNOW, AND APPLY THE LESSONS LEARNED.
“”Wilson was fatally injured while trapped in the master bedroom during a wind-driven residential structure fire. His death was caused by thermal and inhalation injuries.””
MUCH MORE INFO HERE, HERE, HERE
Please Read and Heed the Lessons Learned from both of these incidents, they are 2 very important case study’s.
Thanks, Ethan Bansek