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Natural gas explosion reported at bakery

This week in history

120 years ago in 1904, transcribed as originally published in the Youngstown Vindicator:

Explosion. Of natural gas in Weick’s Bakery nearly caused fatalities. Set fire to building. Entailing property loss of $600 — Narrow escape of two linemen making connections.

A natural gas explosion in the bakery of Christ Weick Monday afternoon at 3:46 o’clock set fire to the Weick building and came near badly injuring two men who were engaged at the time in making a connection with the natural gas main at the rear of the bakery.

The property loss was not great, however, considering the nature of the fire, and $500 or $600 will cover the damage done.

The first intimation that the workmen had that the gas had leaked from the main into the bakery was when a terrific explosion occurred. A pair of Albright ovens were being erected at the rear of the bakery and around the new brick work a shed had been erected to protect the masons from the cold. This false work contained windows and a door so the men could have a light and a place to go in and out with their material.

The ovens were about completed, and the workmen from the natural gas company were engaged in the alley in ‘tieing in’ a line to supply the ovens with fuel. The cap had been screwed from the main and the men, George Murphy and Charles Brick were screwing the inch and a half pipe into the opening. The gas followed the pipe into the building and ignited from inside.

The explosion that followed blew the shed that had surrounded the oven into the alley, broke windows in the building of the Jacob Resch & Sons company, and played havoc with the hair and eyebrows of the two men in the trench. Murphy was knocked into the ditch but brawled out and escaped a fatal burning. Brick had part of the building blown over him, but managed to escape with the scorching of his hair and some slight burns.

The flames shot into the air fifteen to twenty feet and the flow of gas kept the fire burning within 10 feet of the building. The gas that had leaked inside the bakery set fire to the building, and burned the woodwork, belting, and considerable of the stock. Several of the bread trays were also damaged, but the firemen quickly responded and having but a few hundred feet to go, quickly had the fire under control. The flames however, had eaten into the second story, but did not get much of a start before they were subdued.

It was an hour before the burning gas was put out. The firemen in the meantime kept the hose playing upon the building to keep the gas flames from setting fire to it. Finally, the flames in the trench, which rose menacingly 15 feet in the air, were extinguished by turning the hose into the end of the opening in the pipe and forcing back the gas. The workmen then placed a cap on the same and the trouble was over.

People residing in the vicinity heard the explosion and thought some awful calamity had occurred. The alley was piled with the wreckage and when the department arrived the fire looked to be a very stubborn one to handle. A large crowd gathered to watch the firemen at their work.

The employees of the bakery declare they smelled the escaping gas a short time before the explosion occurred, but had no idea that so much had escaped into the building in so short a time. It was known that the men were at work in the trench.

The ovens that are installed at the Weick bakery are the finest and latest known, and luckily escaped with a slight damage, a few bricks being blown from the top of the construction.

The loss is covered but insurance. The bakery resumed operations last night and the patrons of the firm will suffer slight inconvenience on account of the fire.

Compiled from the Youngstown Vindicator by Chelsea Hess, Mahoning Valley Historical Society archives assistant

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