Philadelphia, PA Naphtha Explosion, Aug 1897

EXPLODING NAPHTHA.

IN A PHILADELPHIA CHEMICAL WORKS CAUSED A DANGEROUS FIRE.

FIFTEEN ARE SEVERELY BURNED.

THIRTEEN OF THE VICTIMS FIREMEN -- THE WALLS OF THE REFINING HOUSE BLOWN OUT AND EIGHTEEN THOUSAND GALLONS OF THE OIL IN THE YARD EXPLODE.

Philadelphia, Aug. 5. -- A naphtha explosion to the chemical works of the Barrett Manufacturing company, in Frankford, yesterday, caused a dangerous and disastrous fire. Thirteen firemen and two employes were badly burned and scalded.
Two men at work in the building, ROBERT GETTLE and JOHN GARRISH, first observed the danger from six large naphtha tanks in the room. GETTLE pointed out to his companion that the oil in two of them was boiling to the bubbling point and likely to explode. The men started for the door. Hardly had they reached it when the two tanks in rapid succession blew up, and the entire building containing them, a brick structure 100 feet long by 48 feet deep, was a mass of flames. Both were frightfully burned and scalded.
The flames spread with fearful rapidity, but notwithstanding the danger that threatened the entire block of buildings, the firemen believed that by heroic exertions they might succeed in confining the more destructive blaze to the structure in which the explosion took place. Fifteen fire companies were on the ground, and the firemen were distributed around the plant in such a way that their combined efforts would do efficient service. In the yard attached to the refining house were 180 barrels of naphtha, each containing 100 gallons, and it was their immediate effort to prevent the flames from reaching them.
The walls had been blown out of the refining house, however, and the blasts of flame shot out in every direction. The fiery rivulets were rushing along the ground and licking around the barrels of explosive oil in the open space. It was not in human power to check this flood of liquid fire, and the firemen beat a retreat. Many of them were unhappily too late. One after another the naphtha barrels blew up. Each explosion was like the discharge of a cannon. As the force accumulated the barrels exploded in batteries.
Most of the firemen managed to escape, but many who had been in the storage yard among the barrels, and who were retreating from the pending explosions, were caught in the darting flames and struck by the flying iron and stone and brick work that followed each explosion. Their companions carried them to places of safety and had them conveyed to the hospital. After the explosions had ceased and the danger therefrom abated, the firemen succeeded in confining the fire to the immediate vicinity of the refining house.
The names of the burned and injured firemen are as follows:
WILLIAM McDADE.
SAMUEL COOK.
SAMUEL WHITE.
FRED HAMPSHIRE.
AARON KNIGHT.
JAMES NEVLING.
JOHN DUFFIELD.
JAMES RIDGEWAY.
CHARLES D. MYERS.
CHARLES MILLER.
JOHN MAIR.
THOMAS O'DAIR.
JACOB LEONARD.
None are expected to die, but several may be disfigured by the burning oil. The loss is estimated at $20,000.

The News Frederick Maryland 1897-08-05