Gulf Refinery Fire

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1975 GULF OIL REFINERY FIRE In the early hours of August 17, 1975, a tragic disaster occurred on the Gulf Oil refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This horrific disaster took the lives of eight firefighters, and potentially could have taken more lives if it wasn’t for the help of many surrounding fire stations. The cause of the fire was the overfilling of Tank 231. While no crude oil escaped from the tank as a result of being overfilled, large quantities of hydrocarbon vapors were trapped above the surface of the tank’s crude oil. As the quantity of crude oil increased, these hydrocarbon vapors were forced out of the tank’s vents and into the area of the No.4 Boiler House where the initial flash occurred. The overfilling of the tank…show more content…
Three members were attending to the apparatus and wading in the foam-water-petroleum mixture which was accumulating on the ground. Commissioner Rizzo and Gulf Refinery manager Jack Burk were on an overhead catwalk nearby observing the fire fighting operation. Without warning the accumulating liquid surrounding Engine 133 ignited, immediately trapping the three firefighters working at Engine 133. Instinctively and without hesitation other nearby firefighters dove into the burning liquid to rescue their comrades, not aware of the danger to themselves. Five more firefighters would be consumed by the advancing fire. The flames just engulfed them," said Commissioner Joseph Rizzo, describing how he escaped the first of dozens of explosions but looked back to see three of his men sealed in flames.

“They were trying to get under the foam, but to no avail," he said. "They were human torches." The fire quickly spread eastward along Avenue “Y” towards 5th Street. Viewing the unfolding horror before him, Commissioner Rizzo ordered two more alarms, five additional rescue squads, and the recall of all companies which had previously been released from the fire grounds throughout the day. On these orders the fire alarm room transmitted the seventh and eighth alarms. As the fire had been placed under control nearly eight hours earlier, firefighters in stations across the city knew that the unthinkable had occurred as these additional

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