Camden, NJ Disastrous Factory Fire, July 1940

Aerial View Of Blaze Beginning of the Blaze Falling Walls Massive Debris Pile Camden NJ fire 7-30-1910.jpg

CAMDEN FIRE LOSS SET AT TWO MILLION.

SEARCH CONTINUES FOR NINE PERSONS REPORTED MISSING AFTER FIREMEN CONQUER FLAMES THAT CAUSE DEATH OF TWO -- 54 HOUSES DESTROYED, RENDERING 1,000 WITHOUT HOMES -- 200 HURT -- CAUSE OF BURNING OIL AND CHEMICALS IN FACTORY NOT DETERMINED -- PHILADELPHIA AND CHESTER FIREMEN AID.

Camden, N.J., July 31 -- (UP) -- Firemen, grotesquely clad in asbestos suits, began the grim search today through the rubble and still smouldering debris of the Camden fire for the bodies of nine men and women known missing and believed to have perished in the $2,000,000 blaze.

Two men were dead, a foreman and an employe of the R. M. HOLLINGSHEAD and Company, the world's largest automotive chemical plant here where a series of explosions started the fire that swept the building, leaped to 54 homes in the immediate area and left all a mass of ruins.

One thousand were homeless and 200 injured or burned while fleeing from the factory amid a shower of blazing oil and chemicals.

The known victims were RAYMOND HARTER, 38, of Collingswood, an employe who succumbed at Cooper Hospital of first, second and third degree burns; and WILLIAM MERRIGAN, 48, Camden hoseman who collapsed while fighting the blaze and died last night at the hospital.

Four of the 32 taken to the hospital were reported in critical condition and physicians feared they might die.
Chester Fireman Aid.

An attempt was made last night to search the ruins by Philadelphia and Chester, Pa., firemen, but they were forced to give up the grim task because of the intense heat.
Under a state of emergency proclaimed by Mayor GEORGE E. BRUNNER, National Guardsman and Naval Reservists patrolled the streets. The homeless were cared for by the Red Cross and other relief agencies.

The five-story brick structure, totaled a scant three blocks from Camden's main thoroughfare, was in ruins a half hour after the first of the explosions struck.

With a deafening roar, a detonation rocked the building and was followed at once by flames. Company official believed the first explosion occurred in the basement, possibly in the polishing plant.

Within little more than two hours, witnesses counted an intermittent series of 35 blasts. Walls collapsed, dropping tons of grease and paint-soaked debris to the street.

Continued