Fatal Detroit Firehouse Blast
Two firemen were killed and twelve others injured, nine seriously, and a city truck driver critically hurt, by an explosion that wrecked the fire station of Engine Company 12, Twelfth Street and Merrick avenue in Detroit shortly before noon on January 16th.
Although at first believed caused by gasoline fumes which had seeped into the basement of the firehouse and were ignited by a furnace fire, subsequent investigation attributed the blast to the ignition of odorless gas leaking from pipes leading to a range in the kitchen of the firehouse when a fireman attempted to attend to the basement furnace.
At the time of the explosion, a city gasoline truck was loading the station’s storage tank, through a short hose and sidewalk connection. The concussion caught the driver, Myron Simmons, critically injuring him. The fireman engaged in tending the furnace, Charles B. Parish, 41, was instantly killed. Paul J. Reiner, 28, died upon entrance to the hospital. Others injured were: Captain Daniel F. Durack; Sergeant Frank R. Bower;
Firemen Thomas E. Corum, Charles J. Hively, George Schultz, Hugh Brown and Andrew Piontek. all of Engine 12. Also Lieutenant Earl M. Butts; Sergeant Wilbur E. Shook; Firemen John M. Bitten, William H. Bathurst and Grant Isaacs, all of Ladder Company 9. Butts, Corum, Hively, Brown and Bitten were released from the hospital after treatment.
Damage to the fire station was estimated at $60,000 and, according to Chief Francis J. McInnis, Buildings and Safety Engineering Department representative for the Fire Department, it must be razed.
The blast ripped u_____ most of the first floor, tore out one side wall, and blew out most of the windows, burying many of the crew in bricks and rubble. Passersby and neighbors rushed to the rescue of the injured, aided by fellow firemen quickly summoned to the scene. The absence of ensuing fire is believed to have prevented more serious casualties.