Orange, TX Employment Office Explosion & Fire, Aug 1949

Orange Fire Victim Feared Under Wall

Orange, Aug. 12. (AP)At least one person was feared buried Friday night beneath a wall which blew out as fire destroyed three two-story business buildings here.

Workmen who had started digging into the tops of brick and rubble were ordered back for a while because of danger of a new explosion from a broken gas line. But gas company workmen shut off the line by floodlight, and a drag line was moved up to continue clearing away the rubbish.

John E. Hickey, 73, suffered a heart attack at his business place near the fire and died in a hospital a short rime later.

At least seven firefighters and bystanders were injured during a three hour battle against the flames.

Damage In Fire

The blaze destroyed an office building, a grocery store and a variety store owned by Perry Bros. Company of Lufkin. Flames leaped to the Orange National Bank building and damaged by fire, water, smoke and falling debris.

Fire Marshal E.L. Barker said he believed the buildings were evacuated safely.

The “fireout” signal was sounded at 7:12 p.m., almost exactly three hours after the blaze was discovered in a toilet on the second floor of the office building. Firemen kept on pouring water into the empty shells of the buildings and the mass of smoking rubble around them.

The explosion occurred in the Texas Employment Commission office, which occupied the lower floor of the office building.

Blew Outward

The front of the building blew outward, injuring a small boy and a volunteer fireman. A side wall crumbled into an alley, burying several automobiles.

“We’re afraid the all got somebody when it fell,” said J.J. Stanfield, volunteer fire captain. A large, orderly crowd had been milling around the building.

The broken gas line was found after more than a score or workmen had started digging into the debris. Gas company employees were hurried up to repair the line by floodlight so digging could be resumed. Mayor Raymond Sanders took personal charge of the operation.

Sanders said it would be early Saturday before the tons of rubbish could be cleared away to determine whether anyone was trapped.

Abilene Reporter News, Abilene, TX 13 Aug 1949