7/23/1984 the Union Oil refinery fire killed seventeen, including ten members of the fire brigade, in Romeoville, IL. “Around 6:00 p.m. a refinery worker noticed vapors escaping from a hairline crack in a high-pressure, 55-foot tower filled with gas and tried to shut down the tank, but before the pressure could be redirected a spark ignited the vapors creating an explosion that launched the 34-ton tank more than 3,400 feet and ensuing fire engulfed much of the refinery in flames… The actual time was around 4-4:15 p.m. when the crack was found, not by a refinery worker, but by a young journeyman electrician from IBEW 697 who worked for Reade Electric. This journeyman reported it to the refinery worker in his booth. They both went back to the cracked vessel and the refinery worker ran back to his booth and the journeyman left to go back to his shop since it was the end of his shift…The journeyman also discussed this with engineers about a week later when this explosion was being investigated and told them about the crack and that it looked like the company did not stress the tank. He was asked how he would know that and he replied that he was in engineering courses at Purdue Calumet…The plant processed 151,000 barrels of oil a day and employed more than 700 workers. Firefighters from the Union Oil Fire Brigade responded immediately with the company’s two engines, followed closely by the Romeoville Fire Department. Union Oil did not need to alert the city fire department as firefighters had felt the blast at the fire station. As a result of the explosion, many towers, tanks, and other refinery structures began to rupture or collapse. The fire hydrant system was damaged. Forced to draft water from a nearby sanitary canal, firefighters were just beginning to attack the flames when a tank containing liquefied petroleum gas erupted. The explosion created a huge fireball that rose thousands of feet into the air and sent many emergency responders running, but several members of the Union Oil Fire Brigade were caught in the blast. Later reports stated that the explosion was felt fifteen miles away and an airplane carrying two Romeoville police officers 1,500 feet over the city at the time was hit with debris from the blast. The enormity of the fire brought mutual aid fire apparatus and ambulances from more than 30 cities, including two medical evacuation helicopters from the University of Chicago Hospital, and a Chicago Fire Department fireboat sent via the sanitary canal. An AMOCO refinery in Indiana even sent truckloads of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) to help extinguish the fire. The assistance was welcomed, as firefighters were needed to both put out the flames and also prevent more refinery structures from catching fire. Once the burning structures were isolated, fire officials determined that allowing the fires to burn out on their own was the safest way to extinguish the blaze. The fires burned throughout the night, luckily without further explosions or loss of life. Seventeen employees of the Union Oil Company were killed during the fire, including ten members of the fire brigade. Damage estimates placed the cost of the fire as high as $500 million and, in terms of damage to property and loss of life, it still ranks as one of the worst refinery fires in U.S. history.” “A report prepared for the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office traced the cause of the blast to faulty welding work performed when a section of the tank was replaced in 1974. The report said a series of cracks formed around the weld, and the pressure eventually split it open, triggering the explosion. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued four citations to the refinery for various safety violations, including a lack of effective emergency procedures.”
7/23/1895 a Quincy, IL firefighter died in a structural collapse while fighting a fire. “On July 22, 1895, the Quincy Fire Department received an alarm just before 10:00 p.m. for a fire at the Wright and Adams’ Foundry, located at 326 through 332 North Front Street. The first firefighters on the scene discovered a massive fire that was deemed “a seething furnace beyond all hope and salvation” by a local newspaper. Firefighting crews concentrated their efforts on saving the machine shop department to the south of the building and the five-story hotel to the north. Once at the scene of the fire, the firefighter scaled a ladder to try to fight the flames from the top of the foundry department wall. Seconds after he reached the top, the wall shook and then fell outward. He had the presence of mind to hold onto the ladder and ride it down instead of jumping clear and becoming crushed under the falling wall. Sadly, the force of the fall was too great. He died an hour later at St. Mary’s Hospital from the injuries he received.”
7/23/1919 a Chicago, IL firefighter died “while fighting a fire that swept through more than fifteen buildings near the intersection of 86th Street and Buffalo Avenue. The fire started when flames from a bonfire built by three children spread to a barn. The fire consumed the barn and a strong wind spread the flames throughout the neighborhood, destroying sixteen houses, a store, and a few small outbuildings. Engine 46 responded to the fire along with nearly every fire company on the south side of the city. The firefighter was fighting the fire from inside a burning building when he was overcome by smoke and other products of combustion. He was carried from the building and taken back to the Engine 46 firehouse, where he died from his injuries.”
7/23/1934 three Toronto, Ontario, Canada firefighters died at the East Basin of Toronto Harbor, working a fire on a barge that was received at 11:36 a.m. at the foot of Carlaw Ave. “Upon arrival, a fire was found on an empty Canadian Oil Company tanker barge. After foam operation, the fire was believed to be extinguished, so a crew entered the barge to check conditions. Some of the fire companies had already picked up and were returning to quarters when a terrific explosion occurred inside the barge. About ten firefighters were seriously hurt in the blast and a 2nd alarm was transmitted. It took some time after the fire was put out and the barge secured, that a tug began to pump out the hull and the three firefighters were found.”
7/23/2008 a Fairbury, IL firefighter “was killed while battling a house fire in Forrest. He had made entry into the home, when the floor collapsed, trapping him in the involved basement.”
7/23/2018 a Columbia, Howard County, MD firefighter died at a residential fire. “At approximately 2:00 a.m. Howard County Fire and Rescue crews responded to a residential fire that began after a reported possible lightning strike. When crews arrived, heavy smoke was visible. Firefighters began an interior attack on the home. While inside, the firefighter fell through the floor and a Mayday was called. He was quickly removed by the Rapid Intervention Team and taken to Howard County General Hospital where he passed away as a result of his injuries.”
7/23/1971 six people died after a fire started in a twelfth-floor room of the high-rise hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. Five victims were found, trying to escape by using an elevator from the fifteenth floor.
7/23/1967 forty-three people died and about 2,000 were injured in a riot in Detroit, 442 fires were started during the disturbance.
7/23/1909 the Galesburg, IL First Methodist Church was destroyed by fire.
7/23/1898 the Beach Hotel was set on fire and destroyed around 4:30 a.m.in Galveston, TX
7/23/1898 the Orange, TX Electric Light Plant fire was discovered in the boiler room around noon.
7/23/1894 a resort hotel in Riverside, NJ was destroyed, and five cottages were damaged by fire around 11:00 p.m.
7/23/1864 the Springfield, MA Main Street fire started about 12:30 p.m. in a wooden building occupied by a dry goods dealer and extended to several buildings.
7/23/1883 dozens drown when a pier failed in North Point, Tivoli Park, near Baltimore MD with between 200 and 300 persons on the wharf between the gates.