Atlanta, GA Restaurant Explosion, May 1971


Atlanta, Ga. (AP) -- Four firemen were killed when an explosion ripped through a burning downtown restaurant, trapping them in a basement inferno as the floor was blown from under them.
"There were guys in there screaming for help," said a fireman, his face flecked with blood, who was standing at the front of the building when the blast occurred. "We scrambled down in there and got some of them. Some we just couldn't get to."
The four they couldn't rescue were:
CAPT. L. B. GRADY, 30.
V. J. CRIDER, 30, fireman.
H. HOWARD BECK, 39, fireman.
C. D. FERNANDEZ, 25, fireman.
Their bodies were removed early Sunday by their comrades from the wreckage of the gutted three-story structure.
It was the worst loss of life the department has suffered since six Atlanta firemen were killed in 1925.
A department spokesman said a special memorial service will be held for them this week.

The Daily Times-News Burlington North Carolina 1971-05-31



Atlanta (UPI) -- Four firemen were killed and 22 others injured late Saturday night when an explosion ripped through a downtown cafeteria where they were fighting a raging blaze.
The fire at Davis' Brothers, an all-night restaurant, started in the basement of the two-story building and the blast, which occurred at 11:10 p.m. EDT, occurred while the firemen were attempting to get hoses into the basement area.
The dead were identified Sunday by Battalion Chief F. J. Bowen as CAPTAIN L. B. GRADY and PRIVATES V. J. CRIDER, C. D. FERNANDEZ and H. HOWARD BECK.
First Deputy Fire Chief J. L. Gibson said firemen were unable to determine the cause of the explosion and fire Sunday, because of rubble in the basement where it occurred.
He said they plan to use cranes Monday morning to lift out the debris so investigators can get in to try and find the cause.
"We just had a fire in the basement, with an unidentified explosion," he said. "It could have been any number of things."
No estimate of damage to the building had been made Sunday.
Of the 22 who were injured, including four civilians who apparently were employees of the cafeteria, eight were admitted to an Atlanta hospital. One of those was released Sunday morning and the other seven were reported in "satisfactory" condition.
The bodies of the four dead firemen were found in the rubble following the explosion. There were about 20 firemen in the building when the explosion ripped through the floor beneath them.
When the fire began in the basement, where the kitchen and rest rooms were located, smoke drifted up into the restaurant itself and the building was quickly evacuated. None of the customers was reported injured.
Fire Chief P. O. Williams said the blaze, in the very heart of downtown section, required five alarms and it took 11 engines and seven ladder trucks to bring it under control. The firemen battled the blaze for more than three hours.
"The fire was not too large or severe but our men were hampered by the narrow downtown streets," Williams said.
Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, arriving on the scene shortly after the alarm was sounded, said he was "disturbed that we could get in a trap like this were we have 20 men in a building when it explodes. I guess we're fortunate we didn't lose 20 lives."
"People were flying everywhere," said Arthur Kaplan, a Police Department first aid instructor. "It was hell."
Flames were still shooting out of second story windows an hour after the explosion as an estimated 100 firemen fought to keep the blaze from spreading to other buildings in the conjested area.

Playground Daily News Fort Walton Beach Florida 1971-05-31