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1955 Whiting refinery fireplace ranks as catastrophic industrial accident
Updated on August 24, 2015 Robert Kostanczuk moreContact Writer Documentary examines the Indiana conflagration that raged for days at Commonplace Oil plant
Story by Robert Kostanczuk
In the early morning of Aug. 27, 1955, the usual Oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., was rocked by a titanic explosion.
The destruction that adopted still ranks as some of the monumental industrial accidents in United States history — 60 years later.
An estimated 1.25 million barrels of crude oil and refined product burned and went up in smoke.
Fighting the fire didn’t completely come to an finish for eight days — it smoldered for that lengthy.
In its coverage of the catastrophe, The Gary Submit-Tribune talked about that one storage tank was still belching black smoke as the catastrophe entered “its second week. br>A 3-year-old boy was killed when a large, torpedo-like chunk of steel from the blast soared by way of the air from at the least a quarter-mile away and tore through the highest of his residence, hanging him in the bedroom.
The boy’s 8-12 months-old brother — who was in the identical room — also was hit by the flying debris and had a leg severed in the 2600 block of Schrage Ave.
A plant supervisor in his early 60s died of a coronary heart attack when he arrived at the engulfed refinery to assist battle the catastrophe.
Dozens of individuals had been injured, several houses have been destroyed and plenty of more have been considerably damaged.
Refinery workers and firefighters from surrounding cities, who, combined, numbered in the thousands, fought the inferno for days.
I do know these details as a result of I wrote a detailed retrospective on the conflagration to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 2005.
I had a personal curiosity in the story that I did for the Submit-Tribune of northwest Indiana.
My elementary-grades schooling happened at Whiting’s Immaculate Conception College, positioned just a number of blocks from the refinery.
My household lived on the 2400 block of White Oak Avenue — the second avenue over from the refinery that sits along Lake Michigan.
I was 10 months previous when, at around 6:12 a.m., my neighborhood was rocked when the 26-story tall Fluid Hydroformer Unit seven-hundred blew apart — the results of a combustible mix of gases and oxygen.
The nightmare had begun for the 1,600-acre Commonplace plant.
Sheets of flames shot a half-mile or more into the air. A dense, gargantuan mushroom cloud of smoke billowed a few miles into the sky.
The Saturday blast at FHU seven hundred prompted a scary shaking of my house. One of the members of my household recalls her bedroom window being shattered. We had to evacuate and stay with family for quite a while.
Flying metallic rocketed for about two blocks before demolishing a storage. A grocery retailer was leveled. Numerous windows had been damaged.
For my 50th anniversary story, I interviewed a 68-12 months-outdated Whiting resident who lived just a couple of blocks from the refinery when its gigantic hydroformer exploded in 1955.
He mentioned the concussive drive “blew me out of bed. br>The destruction of FHU 700 set off a series of oil-tank blasts.
When it was all said and accomplished, greater than 60 mammoth storage tanks have been destroyed.
In conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the usual Oil catastrophe in 2015, the quick documentary — “One Minute After Sunrise” — will likely be shown free of charge at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, within the Whiting High school Auditorium. The film includes recollections from quite a few folks concerning the large industrial accident. DVDs of “One Minute After Sunrise” might be available for $12 on the showing.
Whiting Mayor Joseph Stahura was born the 12 months after the refinery catastrophe, however he realizes the memory of it lingers in his group.
“It’s type of embedded in people’s minds; it was probably a reasonably wonderful and horrific sight at the moment, Stahura told me in a current interview.
The mayor has had a private stake in the oil trade that’s part of the very fiber of Whiting, which has been promoted because the “Little City on Lake Michigan. Stahura stated he labored on the refinery for nearly 23 years before changing into mayor, having been employed there when the plant went by way of identify transitions — from Amoco, to BP Amoco to simply BP, the refinery’s current identify.
The refining of crude oil into gasoline is, you might say, part of Whiting’s character.
Whiting — now with a inhabitants of about 5,000 — celebrated its centennial in 1989 based on when the usual Oil Firm broke ground for its refinery in Whiting, which was 1889.
Whiting was not formally integrated as a metropolis until 1903.
2003 marked the last year Stahura was employed at the refinery, the place he worked in the operations division and eventually grew to become a coaching coordinator in that division who dealt with security issues.
Stahura, fifty eight, expressed optimism that a repeat of an industrial accident on the size of the 1955 incident will be avoided.
“I don’t think something like that would even happen in today’s world with all of the safeguards and security gear put in place, he said.
That, for me, is a comforting opinion.
The horrid expertise of Aug. 27, 1955, is something you don’t want to relive.
One of the crucial haunting photographs from the blast appeared in the Publish-Tribune.
The nighttime picture exhibits two of the Indiana Nationwide Guardsmen who have been referred to as in to maintain onlookers from getting too near the dangerous accident site, and to guard the peace and prevent looting.
As refinery flames roar in the background, the 2 helmeted guardsmen stand alone a deserted avenue with what appear like rifles strapped to their shoulders.
You may almost feel the eerie quiet and sense the ravaged, desolate landscape.
Many a whole bunch of residents who lived close to the usual Oil plant had already been evacuated.
I don’t like utilizing the time period “war zone to explain scenes that are not truly part of military conflict, but on this case, the National-Guardsmen picture really did convey the texture of a struggle zone.
A part of the National Guardsmen’s obligations was to keep traffic away from Indianapolis Boulevard, which Petroleum Refinery Equipment For Sale borders the refinery.
It was reported that components of the boulevard melted from flaming gasoline.
Amazingly, the usual Oil refinery was back at regular crude-barrel manufacturing levels about three months after the explosions and blaze.
Today, the BP Whiting Refinery remains a vital source of income for the town.
“It’s our largest taxpayer, Stahura noted. “They’re great companions with us proper now. They make use of a ton of individuals. br>The petroleum mecca also keeps the community’s century-outdated “Oil City identification going.
Whiting Highschool sports groups are named the Oilers.
Nightmare hit small metropolis within the ’50s
Hellish smoke from refinery billowed skyward
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