Humble, TX Huge Oil Field Fire, July 1905
MILLIONS OF BARRELS OF OIL BURNING.
DESTRUCTIVE BLAZE IN THE OIL FIELDS OF TEXAS.
AREA THREE-QUARTERS OF A MILE SQUARE AT HUMBLE IN FLAMES -- NEGROES PERISH.
POSSIBLE THAT FIFTY MAY BE DEAD -- HUNDREDS ARE HOMELESS -- FIRE MAY SPREAD.
Humble, Texas, July 24. -- Covering an area three-quarters of a mile square, with a canopy of smoke spreading over two square miles, the oil tanks of the Texas company continue to boil under the great heat of burning oil, the fire having burned all night. It cannot be extinguished until it has burned all of the oil in eleven big tanks, which held two and a half million barrels when lightning struck them Sunday.
It is known that five negro workmen perished and rumors place the number of dead as high as 60. There are hundreds of homeless people, many of them only awaiting their turn to go to Houston for shelter. During the night there was a heavy downpour of rain and this covered the ground with a sheet of water, the coating of which is a thick film of oil. If this waste oil catches fire it is probable the tanks of the Guffey company, the Sun company and smaller owners may go. These tanks hold 4,500,000 barrels.
Workmen In Peril.
Shortly after the big tank began to blaze, 200 workmen with seventy-five mules were hurried to the place to throw up earthen embankments to confine the fire to the tank where it originated. Suddenly the oil gave an upheaval, bubbled and lifted a great mass of burning fluid bodily from the tank, and the fire was communicated to three other tanks. The burning oil caught the men and mules and hemmed them in. There was a wild scramble for safety. Some of the men mounted mules and got them out, but at least forty mules were cremated. Five negroes were seen to go down and it is not believed possible they could have escaped. While all the men have not been accounted for, these five are all that are certainly known to have perished.
Early today fire broke out in the steel tanks of the Texas company at the pumping station, a mile from the original fire. What damage is being done cannot be ascertained, because it is impossible to reach that part of the field.
3,000,000 Barrels Burning.
At 10 o'clock this morning the fire was still raging, with no prospects of immediate control. It is believed, however, that the flames will eventually be confined to the tankage district. There are three million barrels of oil in these storage tanks, all of which will be destroyed. The losses are already estimated at three-quarters of a million, with practically no insurance. Reports of fatalities have not been verified, although a number of men are missing.
Cedar Rapids Weekly Gazette Iowa 1905-07-26
(Transcriber's Note: From what I could learn from other sources, the total number of dead was finally given as "between 50 and 60." Because of the entire creamation of bodies an accurate count was not possible.)