1955 Whiting Refinery Fire Ranks As Catastrophic Industrial Accident
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1955 Whiting refinery hearth ranks as catastrophic industrial accident
Up to date on August 24, 2015 Robert Kostanczuk moreContact Writer Documentary examines the Indiana conflagration that raged for days at Customary Oil plant
Story by Robert Kostanczuk
Within 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 probably the most 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 fireplace didn’t totally come to an finish for eight days — it smoldered for that long.
In its protection of the catastrophe, The Gary Submit-Tribune talked about that one storage tank was nonetheless belching black smoke as the catastrophe entered “its second week.”
A 3-yr-outdated boy was killed when a big, torpedo-like chunk of steel from the blast soared by the air from at the very least a quarter-mile away and tore by the highest of his house, placing him within the bedroom.
The boy’s 8-12 months-old brother — who was in the same room — also was hit by the flying debris and had a leg severed within the 2600 block of Schrage Ave.
A plant supervisor in his early 60s died of a heart assault when he arrived at the engulfed refinery to assist battle the disaster.
Dozens of individuals have been injured, several homes were destroyed and many more have been considerably damaged.
Refinery employees and firefighters from surrounding cities, who, mixed, numbered within the thousands, fought the inferno for days.
I do know these facts 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 private curiosity in the story that I did for the Submit-Tribune of northwest Indiana.
My elementary-grades training came about at Whiting’s Immaculate Conception College, situated simply several blocks from the refinery.
My family lived on the 2400 block of White Oak Avenue — the second street over from the refinery that sits alongside Lake Michigan.
I used to be 10 months old when, at around 6:12 a.m. my neighborhood was rocked when the 26-story tall Fluid Hydroformer Unit 700 blew apart — the results of a combustible mixture of gases and oxygen.
The nightmare had begun for the 1,600-acre Standard plant.
Sheets of flames shot a half-mile or extra into the air. A dense, gargantuan mushroom cloud of smoke billowed a couple of miles into the sky.
The Saturday blast at FHU seven hundred brought about a frightening shaking of my house. One of the members of my household recalls her bedroom window being shattered. We needed to evacuate and stay with family for quite some time.
Flying steel rocketed for about two blocks earlier than demolishing a garage. A grocery retailer was leveled. Quite a few home windows have been damaged.
For my 50th anniversary story, I interviewed a 68-12 months-old Whiting resident who lived simply a couple of blocks from the refinery when its gigantic hydroformer exploded in 1955.
He stated the concussive force “blew me out of mattress.”
The destruction of FHU seven-hundred set off a series of oil-tank blasts.
When it was all stated and achieved, greater than 60 mammoth storage tanks were destroyed.
Along with the 60th anniversary of the usual Oil catastrophe in 2015, the quick documentary — “One Minute After Sunrise” — can be proven freed from cost at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, within the Whiting Highschool Auditorium. The film contains recollections from numerous people about the huge industrial accident. DVDs of “One Minute After Sunrise” will likely be obtainable for $12 on the showing.
Whiting Mayor Joseph Stahura was born the 12 months after the refinery disaster, but he realizes the reminiscence of it lingers in his community.
“It’s form of embedded in people’s minds; it was in all probability a pretty wonderful and horrific sight at that time,” Stahura advised me in a latest interview.
The mayor has had a private stake within the oil industry that’s part of the very fiber of Whiting, which has been promoted because the “Little City” on Lake Michigan. Stahura said he labored at the refinery for almost 23 years before changing into mayor, having been employed there when the plant went via identify transitions — from Amoco, to BP Amoco to simply BP, the refinery’s present name.
The refining of crude oil into gasoline is, you might say, part of Whiting’s personality.
Whiting — now with a population of about 5,000 — celebrated its centennial in 1989 primarily based on when the usual Oil Company broke floor for its refinery in Whiting, which was 1889.
Whiting was not formally included as a metropolis till 1903.
2003 marked the final yr Stahura was employed at the refinery, where he worked within the operations division and eventually turned a training coordinator in that department who handled security points.
Stahura, 58, expressed optimism that a repeat of an industrial accident on the scale of the 1955 incident might be prevented.
“I don’t assume one thing like that might even occur in today’s world with all of the safeguards and security tools put in place,” he mentioned.
That, for me, is a comforting opinion.
The horrid experience of u s petroleum u s petroleum Aug. 27, 1955, is one thing you don’t want to relive.
One of the vital haunting images from the blast appeared in the Submit-Tribune.
The nighttime photo reveals two of the Indiana National Guardsmen who had been known as in to maintain onlookers from getting too near the harmful accident site, and to guard the peace and prevent looting.
As refinery flames roar in the background, the two helmeted guardsmen stand alone a deserted street with what appear to be rifles strapped to their shoulders.
You’ll be able to nearly feel the eerie quiet and sense the ravaged, desolate panorama.
Many hundreds of residents who lived near the standard Oil plant had already been evacuated.
I don’t like utilizing the time period “war zone” to describe scenes that aren’t actually part of military conflict, but on this case, the Nationwide-Guardsmen photo really did convey the feel of a battle zone.
Part of the National Guardsmen’s responsibilities was to keep site visitors away from Indianapolis Boulevard, which borders the refinery.
It was reported that components of the boulevard melted from flaming fuel.
Amazingly, the standard Oil refinery was back at regular crude-barrel production ranges about three months after the explosions and blaze.
At this time, the BP Whiting Refinery remains an important supply of revenue for the city.
“It’s our largest taxpayer,” Stahura famous. “They’re great partners with us proper now. They employ a ton of individuals.”
The petroleum mecca additionally retains the community’s century-outdated “Oil City” identification going.
Whiting High school sports groups are named the Oilers.
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