50th Anniversary of Blaze Killing Five Kansas City, Mo. Firefighters Marked


Kansas City marked the 50th anniversary of one of its deadliest fire disasters on Tuesday.

Five firefighters and one civilian died at what has become know as the "Southwest Boulevard Explosion." Fifty other firefighters were injured.

Capt. George Bartels, Capt. Peter Sirna, Firefighter Virgil Sams, Firefighter Delbert Stone, Firefighter Neal Owen and civilian Francis "Rocky" Toomes were killed in the blast.

A spark ignited a tanker that was being fueled at a store center at Southwest Boulevard and Roanoke Road. Adjoining storage tanks also caught fire.

Crews from both Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City rushed to the scene in what was then a rare display of mutual aid, a technique that is now common. The tanker exploded killing the six.

It was captured on film, which was rarely shot 50 years ago.

Photographer Joe Adams shot the historic film for KMBC-TV. It was reported by well-known Kansas City journalist Charles Gray.

Gray told the crowd at the rededication ceremony that was "the day all hell broke loose."

Kansas City Fire Chief Smokey Dyer noted that the fire sparked modern firefighting techniques, including mutual aid, new methods of fighting, and preventing industrial fires and early awareness of the dangers of hazardous material.

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