Explosion, Fire Rip Oil Refinery

Jay K. Bradish reports on a fire fought by 30 departments in the heart of Pennsylvania's oil country.


Being in the heart of western Pennsylvania's oil country, Venango County firefighters are no strangers to refinery fires. An October 1995 incident in Rouseville, however, was big even by their standards, requiring the efforts of more than 150 career and volunteer firefighters from about 30...


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Small explosions continued late Saturday and into Sunday with fire crews remaining on the scene until Tuesday afternoon. Over one million gallons of petroleum products were lost in the refinery. Fifty of the 150 storage tanks and numerous buildings were destroyed.

Firefighting equipment destroyed in the fire included a pumper from Polk, 13,250 feet of hose, a deluge gun, numerous nozzles, hand tools and protective gear. A total of 204 firefighters from at least 15 departments spent a total of 5,663 man-hours at the scene. Several months later, company officials decided not to rebuild and closed the refinery.

Jay K. Bradish

Wartime Explosion & Fire Claimed 9 Lives

A major refinery built to help America's World War II effort was the scene of a deadly explosion and fire nearly 52 years ago.

After two years of construction the refinery was in operation only two months at the time of the fire. The plant was designed to supply 100-octane aviation fuel to the Allied forces.

On July 6, 1944, at 12:45 P.M., an explosion occurred while repairs were being made to a valve in the refinery's gas concentration unit. The fire quickly jumped a highway and gutted a two-story office building and a storage warehouse. Eight employees died from injuries suffered in the fire and one spectator died of a heart attack.

Firefighters from Franklin, Oil City, Reno, Rocky Grove, Rouseville and Titusville used water to cool nearby storage tanks, buildings and equipment to prevent the fire from spreading. The fire was extinguished by 7 o'clock but firefighters had to remain on the scene for two days.

Jay K. Bradish


Jay K. Bradish, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a former captain in the Bradford Township, PA, Fire Department. He has been a volunteer firefighter and photographer for 23 years.