Bradford, PA Refinery Fire, May 1894



Bradford, Pa., May 14. -- The barrel house at Emery's refinery in this city took fire yesterday afternoon, presumably by spontaneous combustion, and was destroyed. The loading racks and five oil-tank cars standing on a side track of the Buffalo, Chester and Pittsburg road were also burned. The fire was a fierce one, and attracted immense crowds of people from all over this locality.
While the firemen were making a final stand and thousands of people were watching them, there was a tremendous explosion. A tank car holding 4100 gallons of benzine had let go with a mighty roar. Fortunately the burning benzine, which was flung into the air in sheets of liquid, fire had consumed itself before settling down over the crowd.
The explosion was followed by a panic that cannot be described in words. Blind, unreasoning, pitiless instinct of self-preservation showed itself, and the weak went down before the strong in multitudes of cases in the frantic rush to escape what seemed to threaten a horrible death.
In the stampede, men as well as women and children were thrown down and trodden over by the flying mass that surged up from behind. Thirty-five of the firemen were burned so that the skin peeled off their faces and hands and the hair was singed off their heads and faces. Of the many others who are slightly burned there is no record, and the total number of those burned and injured in the stampede there is no record and the number will probably reach 100 persons.
With all the suffering this fire will cause, the property loss will not exceed $5000.

Lowell Sun Massachusetts 1894-05-14