Saturday, April 27, 2013


In a prophetic kind-of-way, staff writer for the National Fire Protection Association's 'NFPA JOURNAL' Kathleen Robinson wrote a piece in the May/June 2012 edition titled 'Fire Down in Texas' highlighting the Texas City disaster in 1947.  Here is how Kathleen describes the worst industrial accident in the history of our country:

For a time, it seemed to the people of Texas City that all they did was go to funerals.  So wrote Steve Olafson in the April 13, 1997 edition of the Houston Chronicle, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Texas City, Texas, explosion and fire, the worst industrial accident in United States history.

The disaster began around 8 a.m. on April 16, 1947, as a stevedore prepared to load ammonium nitrate from the Monsanto Chemical plant onto the SS Grandcamp, berthed nearby at the Texas City docks.  When he entered the hold, which contained some ammonium nitrate that had been loaded the day before, as well as machinery, peanuts, and twine, he smelled smoke.  Moving some of the cargo, he uncovered the fire and called for water, according to a report written days later by the Fire Prevention and Engineering Bureau of Texas and the National Board of Fire Underwriters.  Two containers of water thrown on the blaze had no effect, so the stevedore tried to put it out using a soda-acid extinguisher.  When that, too, failed, he called for a hose line.  Before it arrived, however, he was told not to apply water, as it might damage the cargo.

By now, about half an hour had passed, and the stevedores abandoned ship.  The fire department was called to the scene at around 8:30 a.m., and two trucks arrived, followed shortly by two more trucks.  Firefighters began laying hose lines and streaming 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.

Twelve minutes later, the ship disappeared in a tremendous explosion, destroying the dock, the Monsanto plant, and other buildings, as well as a number of oil and chemical storage tanks.  The explosion also set fire to the SS High flyer, which carried 2,000 tons (1,814 metric tons) of sulfur and 961 (872 metric tons) tons of ammonium nitrate.

Early that afternoon, tugboats made several unsuccessful attempts to move the High Flyer, according to the Fire Prevention Bureau's report.  At 10 or 11 p.m. they finally freed the ship, pulling it about 100 feet (31 meters) away before it too, exploded.

The toll of the explosions and fire was enormous.  Property losses were estimated at $67 million, and thousands of people were injured.  Although the exact number of people killed will never be known, a monument to the victims notes that 576 people, 398 of whom could be identified, died.  Among them were 27 of the Texas City Fire Department's 28 firefighters.

-Kathleen Robinson

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers for West Texas

We wanted to take a moment to mention the horrific fertilizer plant explosion in West Texas and pray for all those that have been affected by this tragic incident.  Somewhat overshadowed by the terrible events that went down in Boston, West Texas residents have suffered an even larger loss of life in an explosion that was so strong it registered on the Richter Scale. 

It has been reported by officials on the scene that at least 200 have been injured and 14 killed in the blast.  As a long-time member of the fire service, I'm even more sadden to report that 10 of the 14 who lost their lives were first responders, including five members of the West Texas Fire Department and 4 paramedics.  Names of the deceased are just now coming to light including one volunteer and one off-duty fire captain. 

In Memory is Kenny Harris, 52, an off-duty Dallas Fire Department captain who lost his life after responding from his home located just a few miles south of the fertilizer plant.  I'm sure that Captain Harris's death will be classified as a line-of-duty-death (LODD).

In Memory is Jerry Chapman, volunteer firefighter with the West Texas Fire Department who lost his life while in the line-of-duty.  Firefighter Chapman was described by loved ones as a man who always carried his pager and radio; ready to help anyone, anytime, day or night.

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and loved ones affected by this horrible incident.   Thoughts and prayers also go out to each and every individual who was affected by the Boston Marathon bombings, an incident that will never be forgotten in the minds of all good Americans.

If you would like to help, you can do so by donating to:

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has established a fund for monetary donations for the survivors and co-workers of the fire and EMS personnel who died in the line of duty.  Mail checks to NFFF c/o West Texas Fire and EMS Fallen Hero Fund, P.O. Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, Maryland, 21727.  You may also go to the foundation's website at to donate on line.  They also will facilitate messages to donate apparatus, equipment, and turn-out gear through  Remember, most volunteer firefighters and their families are not entitled to survivorship benefits, nor are they often covered should they be injured, so please consider donating today.

A victim's fund has been set up at the Pointwest Bank.  Checks can be mailed to the bank at 200 W.Oak, West, Texas, 76691 or P.O. Box 279, West, Texas, 76691.  Call 254-826-5333 for more information, including who to address the check to. 

Friday, April 19, 2013


Fire Sentry is a bi-monthly post dedicated to keeping you safe from fire through the experience of other who have been victimized by this natural phenomena that is present everywhere in our society.  We in the fire service routinely critique past fires in hopes of identifying what went right and wrong and sharing those experiences with other jurisdictions in hopes that their fire ground operations benefit in the future. In the same spirit, it is our hope here at Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants that you and your family learn from the incidents told here in Fire Sentry.  Become your family's personal Fire Marshal by holding your own critique and discussing these incidents with loved ones, it just may save a life.  ALWAYS REMEMBER, HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN AND WORKING SMOKE DETECTORS!

Incidents presented in this post are taken from the bi-monthly publication of the National Fire Protection Association's 'NFPA JOURNAL'.  Specific incidents are found in the 'NEWS + ANALYSIS' section titled 'FIREWATCH' composed by staff writer, Ken Tremblay.   


Alaska- A 92-year old woman living in a basement converted into a separate apartment unit with egress to the outside was found dead of smoke inhalation when a cookbook sitting to close to a stove-top heating element caught fire.  A battery operated smoke alarm had been installed in the first floor hallway of the single family structure, but not in the converted basement living unit.  There were no sprinklers in the home.

Reported by a neighbor at 01:28 p.m., firefighters were confronted  by neighbors warning them that an elderly woman may still be inside and so crews immediately switched from attack mode to rescue operations.  Unfortunately, the resident was found by firefighters near the door leading to the outside where she had no viable vital signs and was determined to be deceased.

Fire investigators determined that the 92-year old victim turned on one of the heating elements to boil water for a cup of tea, sadly however, a cookbook was dangerously close to the element and consequently ignited due to the radiant heat.  Investigators hypothesize that the next closest fuel package, the kitchen cabinets, ignited from the heat energy being given off from the cookbook and from that point to other combustibles within the kitchen.


It must be noted here for all of you taking care of elderly parents or have a loved one just living alone that may have physical or mental challenges , that the victim in this fire was barely ambulatory and suffered from dementia.  Older adults, ages 65 and older, are considered a "High-Risk" group by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA),  and therefore deserve special attention when it comes to education and prevention. 

For example, did you know that adults 65-75 are two times more likely to die in a fire than the general public?  And that number increases again one more time or 3 times more likely for those aged 75 and older?  I will be submitting a article addressing high-risk groups in my next post.

Washington- Two elderly folks succumbed to their injuries suffered in a fire that began in their single-wide mobile home after a cigarette fell undetected onto a sofa cushion in the living room.  One victim, a 71-year old gentlemen who was pretty much confined to the sofa and on home oxygen therapy, was found deceased in the area of origin.  The other victim, a 70-year old woman was found unconscious on the sofa by firefighters.  Rescuers performed CPR and advanced life saving techniques, however, they were unable to revive the victim and she, like the male, died of smoke inhalation.

Oregon- A 70-year old woman died of smoke inhalation after a cigarette she was smoking ignited her oxygen tubing while on home oxygen therapy.  The victim was discovered unresponsive and face down on the living room floor by her husband who had just arrived home at 10:25 p.m.  It was reported that the single-wide mobile home did have a battery-operated smoke detector, but the fire was to small to activate it.

Investigators hypothesized that the victim ignited the plastic nasal canula that was feeding her oxygen while lighting a cigarette; burn injuries discovered around the deceased's mouth and nose confirm this theory.  Additionally, investigators found the canula in the kitchen sink which they surmise was pulled off by the victim in an attempt to put the fire out.  Sadly, lethal toxicants from the burning plastic had already done so much damage that the victim, already suffering from lung disease, could not survive the ordeal.


North Carolina-  An 83-year old great-grandmother saved two children from a fire in a single-family home, but not before one other child died and the woman rescuer being transported to the hospital with burns suffered during the rescue.

The fire originated in the living room of the single-family home which in addition to the obvious household furnishings also contained a Christmas tree , kerosene heater, and two-5-gallon (18-liter) containers of fuel.  The cause of the fire has been classified as "undetermined", however, investigators did note that the fuel contributed to the rapid spread of fire in this incident.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


gardencityguardian: FBI RELEASES PHOTOGRAPHS OF BOSTON SUSPECTS: The FBI just held a press conference releasing photographs of two individuals wanted for questioning in the recent Boston Marathon bombings....


The FBI just held a press conference releasing photographs of two individuals wanted for questioning in the recent Boston Marathon bombings.  Click on the tab "FBI Most Wanted" to the right or go to   

If you recognize either of these individuals, call the FBI tip line at: 1-800-CALL-FBI