Vintage: Standard Oil refinery fire (1955)

Vintage: Standard Oil refinery fire (1955)


On Aug. 27, 1955, an explosion at the Standard Oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., destroyed much of the plant and dozens of homes. The explosion occurred in a “hydroformer,” a 26-story-high tank used to convert low-octane gasoline into high-octane gasoline at what is now a BP refinery. The largest hydrorfomer in the country, it sat on the fourth largest refinery in the nation, surrounded by myriad storage tanks, some with a million-gallon capacity. Their contents were supposed to pass through the plant’s 20 miles of pipelines and onto the gas tanks of the nation’s cars and trucks. Instead, they fueled 18 acres of fires for eight days.

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People crowd Indianapolis Boulevard in Whiting after an explosion at the nearby Standard Oil Co. on Aug. 27, 1955. Two people were killed and dozens were injured in addition to major property damage. Chicago Tribune historical photo

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T.L. Speer, left, and J.C. Rhodes, research engineers for Standard Oil Co., examine a large piece of jagged steel on Aug. 29, 1955. The steel was blown out of the plant when a huge hydroform exploded Aug. 27. The fire burned for eight days. Jack Mulcahy / Chicago Tribune

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Joseph Pokraka, a Standard Oil Co. engineer, gets coffee from Salvation Army Maj. Boley Black at the Whiting refinery Aug. 28, 1955, as the disaster food truck served workers, police officers, firefighters and volunteers battling the multimillion dollar blaze. The Salvation Army estimated they poured about 350 gallons of coffee and served 175 pounds of meat near 129th Street and Indianapolis Boulevard. Luigi Mendicino / Chicago Tribune

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A car is upside down atop a garage at 1822 Ann St. in Whiting after the Standard Oil Co. refinery explosion Aug. 27, 1955. The house and garage are about a block from the refinery. Luigi Mendicino / Chicago Tribune

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Thomas Koval, in truck, and Joe Poplas retrieve furniture and clothes from a home at 2826 Indianapolis Blvd. in Whiting, Ind., on Aug. 27, 1955. The nearby Standard Oil Co. refinery explosion and subsequent fire necessitated the evacuation. Chicago Tribune historical photo

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Cpl. Alan Sharp, of the Indiana National Guard, patrols near 129th Street and Indianapolis Boulevard in Whiting on Aug. 28, 1955, while a worker on a pole repairs wires and other equipment damaged by the explosion and fire at the Standard Oil Co. plant. Luigi Mendicino / Chicago Tribune

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Standard Oil Co. refinery explosion and fire in Whiting, Ind., on Aug. 27, 1955. Howard Borvig / Chicago Tribune

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Fires still raged at the Standard Oil Co. refinery in Whiting on Aug. 29, 1955, two days after an explosion at the plant. Chicago Tribune historical photo

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Storage tanks buckled by the intense heat of the fire at the Standard Oil Co. refinery in Whiting on Aug. 30, 1955. Some tanks, far right, survived the Aug. 27 blast and subsequent fires. “Big steel oil storage tanks melted ‘like ice cream cones’ as flames licked at their rivets and plates,” the Tribune reported. Jack Mulcahy / Chicago Tribune

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Residents look over damage from the explosion and fire at the Standard Oil Co. refinery in Whiting in August 1955. Chicago Tribune historical photo

Via www.chicagotribune.com


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