Pithole, PA Fire, Aug 1866

Pithole, PA in 1865.jpg


From 12,000 to 13,000 Barrels of Oil Burned—27 Wells and Rigs Destroyed—Loss of Property $135,000.

From the Record of yesterday.

Yesterday morning between the hours of six and seven o’clock one of the most destructive fires that has for some time occurred in the oil region broke out at well 43, on the United States Petroleum Company’s lease, Holmden Farm, and rapidly spread in all directions, destroying an immense amount of property. At the time the fire broke out the engine at No. 43 was being run by a wood fire instead of gas, as usual; the sucker rods were being drawn for the purpose of making some repairs, when a spark from the engine communicated with the escaping gas, and in a moment the flames shot to the top of the derrick and fired the tank. Mr. H. Lopez, the engineer, made every exertion to quench the spreading fire, but once started it was beyond the power of human exertion to prevent its onward progress. As soon as the oil in the tank was on fire, the flames spread with fearful rapidity, communicating with all the neighboring wells in an incredibly short space of time. All the wells on the United States Petroleum Company’s tract were destroyed by the fire, and all those on the Summer & Pratt tract on the west side of the creek, besides a number of wells on smaller tracts and leases in that vicinity. This was the most productive and best paying territory on Pithole Creek, and the loss falls severely upon the working interest.

We have gathered the following particulars in regard to the fire:


Well No. 47, (Burchill) M. Runales, Superintendent, was entirely destroyed—derrick, engine, engine house, and three tanks, containing 600 barrels of oil.

Two wells on lease 42; tank saved.

No. 59, new well, tanks containing 700 barrels of oil, burned. Mr. Runales, of the firm of Whipple & Runales, owned one-half interest in the above wells.

On the United States Company’s tract, No. 46, engine house and entire rig were destroyed, together with the tanks and 800 barrels of oil.

No. 41, entire rig and tank.

No. 45, rig and tank.

No. 43, where the fire originated, rig and tank.

No. 49, with everything connected.

The number of tanks destroyed on this lease was eighteen, containing 7,250 barrels of oil. Loss on the lease is estimated at $65,000. But for the exertions of Mr. Burchill, Superintendent of No. 46, assisted by Mr. Bonnall, the tank of well 42 would have caught fire, and nothing could have prevented the flames from communicating with the large sheds covering the immense tanks at the United States Company, containing 13,000 barrels of oil. In that case the result would have been frightful to contemplate.—Every well on the “flats” would have been burned, and the fire would have spread far beyond the boundaries of the Holmden and Rooker farms. There is no telling where it would have stopped. The tank of No. 42, spoken of above, was saved by covering it with wet blankets. Mr. Bonnall carrying them to the top when almost suffocated with smoke and flames. The efforts made by him cannot be too highly spoken of.