NFPA Journal - May/June 2012 - (Page 112)

>>LOOKING BACK Fire Down in Texas Two ships carrying ammonium nitrate explode in the worst industrial accident in U.S. history For a time, it seemed to the people of Texas City that all they did water from the dock, but the ship’s hull was so hot by 9 a.m. that the water vaporized when it hit the deck. was go to funerals. So wrote Steve Olafson in the April 13, 1997 edition of the Houston Chronicle, commemorating the 50th anniTwelve minutes later, the ship disappeared in a tremendous versary of the Texas City, Texas, explosion and fire, the worst explosion, destroying the dock, the Monsanto plant, and other industrial accident in United States history. buildings, as well as a number of oil and chemical storage tanks. The explosion also set fire to the SS High Flyer, which carried The disaster began around 8 a.m. on April 16, 1947, as a ste2,000 tons (1,814 metric tons) of sulfur and 961 (872 metric vedore prepared to load ammonium nitrate from the Monsanto tons) tons of ammonium nitrate. Chemical plant onto the SS Grandcamp, berthed nearby at the Texas City docks. When he entered the hold, which contained Early that afternoon, tugboats made several unsuccessful some ammonium nitrate that had been loaded the day before, attempts to move the High Flyer, according to the Fire Prevention as well as machinery, peanuts, and twine, he smelled smoke. Moving some of the cargo, he uncovered the fire At 9:12 A.m., the SS Grandcamp DISAPPeAReD and called for water, according to a report written days in a tremendous explosion, destroying the dock. later by the Fire Prevention and Engineering Bureau of Texas and the National Board of Fire Underwriters. Two contain- Bureau’s report. At 10 or 11 p.m. they finally freed the ship, pulling it ers of water thrown on the blaze had no effect, so the stevedore about 100 feet (31 meters) away before it, too, exploded. tried to put it out using a soda-acid extinguisher. When that, The toll of the explosions and fire was enormous. Property too, failed, he called for a hose line. Before it arrived, however, losses were estimated at $67 million, and thousands of people he was told not to apply water, as it might damage the cargo. were injured. Although the exact number of people killed will never be known, a monument to the victims notes that 576 peoBy now, about half an hour had passed, and the stevedores ple, 398 of whom could be identified, died. Among them were 27 abandoned ship. The fire department was called to the scene at around 8:30 a.m., and two trucks arrived, followed shortly by two of the Texas City Fire Department’s 28 firefighters. more trucks. Firefighters began laying hose lines and streaming —Kathleen Robinson 112 NFPA JOURNAL MAY/JUNE 2012 Photograph: EPA/Newscom

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NFPA Journal - May/June 2012

Nfpa Journal - May/june 2012
First Word
In a Flash
Heads Up
Structural Ops
In Compliance
Buzz Words
Electrical Safety
Wildfire Watch
Treasurer's Report
Signal Concern
Giant Steps
Sprinklered Menagerie?
Free Samples
Eye on Health Care
Membership: The Sections
Expo Preview: Exhibitors' Showcase
Looking Back

NFPA Journal - May/June 2012