Philadelphia, PA Gasoline Station Explosion, Apr 1961


Philadelphia (UPI) -- Three firemen were killed and 25 others were injured Saturday when an explosion blew apart a three-story building housing a gasoline station.
The blast occurred after firemen arrived and found smoke filling the building from a fire in the basement of the service station.
Firemen JOHN MURPHY, who was working inside with a hoseline, said "we thought we had the fire knocked down pretty good. Then, everything let loose.
The dead were RAY BORDIER, 28, who joined the fire department one year ago; WILLIAM SIEGER, 49, who had just 18 months to go for retirement, and THOMAS A. WALSH, 36, who was in the middle of his career as a fireman, carrying on a job his late father held before him.
BORDIER was killed instantly. The bodies of SIEGER and WALSH were recovered later by their comrades who dug with the aid of power shovels for hours in the smoldering ruins. Flames flared up occasionally setting the boots of firemen afire as gasoline seeped from ruptured tanks underground and ignited.
The explosion hurled firemen off ladders -- some from the third-floor level. Others inside, including MURPHY, were blown out of the building. Windows throughout the neighborhood were shattered by the concussion. Bystanders were knocked to the ground and injured by flying glass and other debris. Dishes and utensils in nearby homes and canned goods on store shelves were sent flying by the shock.
Capt. ARTHUR GROVER, who was ascending the stairs to check that no one was in the third-floor apartment, said that the moment of the violent blast "the whole building lifted up and then went down."
The structure collapsed around GROVER but the stairs held long enough for him to climb out a hole in the collapsed roof and make his way down a slope of debris to the ground.

Daily Courier Connellsville Pennsylvania 1961-04-17