Firefighters remembered 55 years after fatal explosion

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MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) –A memorial service was held on Wednesday to mark theĀ 55th anniversary of an explosion in Monroe County that killedĀ five people, left several others injured, and lead to a change in the way hazardous materials are handled.

Three of the people who died in the explosion were firemen with the Marshalls Creek Fire Company. Each year a memorial service is held at the department to make sure that people don’t forget.

“This is something that I will never forget and I hope nobody else does either because it was not a good day,” former Marshalls Creek Fire Company firefighter Robert Huffman said.

That day was June 26, 1964, when at about 4 a.m., Marshalls Creek Fire Company was dispatched to a vehicle fire involving a tractor-trailer on Route 209. It didn’t take long to realize this was no ordinary vehicle fire.

“A few minutes later the trailer exploded. Not on fire, but literally exploded into pieces,” Marshalls Creek Fire Company assistant chief Eugene Berry Sr. said.

Three firemen and three bystanders were killed and 10 bystanders were injured.

“We had a firehouse phone at the house so when the fire call came in, it rang at the house and my parents didn’t wake me up because the night before, we were out at 4:00 in the morning for a barn fire. I’ll let him sleep, it’s only a truck fire,” Huffman said.

Huffman was a fireman with the Marshalls Creek Fire Company for 25 years. He says sleeping in that morning probably saved his life.

“I thank God for my parents didn’t wake me up because I probably would’ve been there that night and it probably would’ve been a lot different that what turned out,” Huffman said.

As firefighters gathered at the station Wednesday evening, they remembered those who lost their lives in the explosion. Prayers were read and a moment of silence took place, following the siren of the fire truck.

“Tradition also means we respect the history of not only our own fire company, but the fire service in the United States. This is Marshall Creek Fire Company’s history. This will never go away. This will always be here,” Berry Sr. said.

And because of that tragic day and others like it, changes have been made, warning incoming crews about potential dangers onboard a trailer.

“Unfortunately, there are bad things that have happened. Out of those bad things, good things do occur,” Berry Sr. said.

In 1964, it was still legal to carry both dynamite and blasting caps in the same vehicle, which is what caused the explosion. This explosion helped lead to the enactment of the Transportation Act of 1974, which regulated the transportation of hazardous materials.

The explosion caused more than a million dollars in damage.

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