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KINGSLAND EXPLOSION REPORT

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Explosion from Municipal Journal and engineer vol XLII Jan-June1917

FIRE AND POLICE

Two Munitions Explosions Shake Five States.

 

Kingsland, N. J.—Fire in the ammunition plant of the Canadian Car and Foundry Company, near here, destroyed the factory and shops and houses within several hundred yards, with a loss officially estimated at $17,000,000, forced the evacuation of a large part of the town of Kingsland, making 1,000 people homeless for a time, and furnished a spectacle more magnificent than the munitions fire on Black Tom Island last September.

 

For four hours Northern New Jersey, New York city, Westchester and the western end of Long Island listened to a bombardment that approximated the sound of a great battle—a bombardment in which probably half a million three-inch high explosive shells were discharged. Not a single life was lost.

 

Thirty-eight one and two-'story frame buildings, covered with corrugated iron, on the meadows, where three shifts of 1,400 each, mostly negroes, were employed in filling the explosives into the shell cases, were the scene of the fire. The fire spread to eleven cars full of loaded shells on the Lackawanna tracks, and then began the bombardment.

 

The workmen fled in all directions and the scare spread to the citizens of the surrounding towns. Mayor Albert A. Clay and Chief of Police McIntyre of Kingsland called out all the police reserves of Kingsland, Lyndhurst and Rutherford, and Sheriff Courter, summoned by telephone from Hackensack, swore in every able-bodied man he met as a special deputy sheriff to preserve order.

 

 As an instance of the constant danger in which the police performed their work may be cited the experience of Chief McIntyre and Chief Bernham of Rutherford, who were driving in an automobile along one of the streets in Guinea Hill when a three-inch shell dropped from the skies right into their car, wrecking it, but the men were uninjured.

 

Many regulations for the storage, handling and shipment of explosives had been enacted by the federal authorities and by many states, particularly those of the east, before the Black Tom explosion last fall focused attention on the danger from the presence in or near centers of population of large quantities of death-dealing material.

 

 The Canadian Car and Foundry Company was one of the opponents to efforts of Jersey City and nearby communities to enact and enforce laws to protect their communities from the danger of the presence or passage of high explosives. The Jersey City aldermen adopted, on August 1st, resolutions designed to stop the shipment of explosives or the storage of them within the city limits. The Central Railroad of New Jersey sent out warning that the city authorities would be held responsible for delaying such shipments, and in some towns private detectives were sent to guard loaded cars, but Perth Amboy and Roosevelt, N. J., both joined the fight within the next few days by enacting similar ordinances.

 

The commissioners announced their determination to enforce their embargo and called upon the federal authorities to arrange for water movement of all such cargoes. The company obtained its injunction within a week, and the shipment of munitions through Jersey City was resumed, but the city authorities still were determined to hold up the product of other companies and to enforce their regulations against storage of explosives. There followed the arrest by the Jersey City police of men handling munitions, in test cases designed to determine their right to do so.

 

Fears of Jersey commuters were somewhat allayed after that, when the railroads announced that they were using extreme care in the transfer of explosives. A few weeks later the fight practically subsided, when Jersey City contented itself with passing an ordinance that all cars loaded with munitions must be plainly marked and that they could be moved only in daylight.

 

 

Haskell, N. J.—Within twenty-nine hours of the Kingsland disaster the metropolitan district and nearby states were again rocked by a munitions explosion. Four hundred thousand pounds of smokeless powder exploded at the DuPont powder works, which are thirty-one miles northwest of New York City. Damage estimated at $350,000 was caused by the series of blasts. Two were killed and nine injured. The force of the explosion—or series of explosions—was felt for a radius of 150 miles, and with the exception of the Black Tom disaster they were the most violent of the munitions explosions in the vicinity of New York.

 

Houses were shaken in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, windows were broken in many places in Westchester County, in Staten Island, and the shocks were felt as far away as Albany and parts of Massachusetts.

 

The first explosion was in what is known as "the glazing barrel." The fire which resulted spread quickly to the blending house, and from there to three magazines. One of the magazines blew up, but the powder in the others was consumed by the flames. The blazing magazines set fire to the screening house, from which the flames leaped across the Wanaque River and consumed three drying houses on the other side.

 

 At this point the fire was checked by the efforts of the company's employees. Other buildings in the plant, and many in the village, which was built in a semicircle around the works, were shattered by the force of the concussion.

 

 At Pompton Lakes, near Haskell, every house was damaged. A knitting mill a mile north of the DuPont plant was wrecked. It was 9:22 o'clock that the blaze started in the glazing house, almost in the center of the long line of 500 buildings that stretch away from Haskell up the Ramapo hills, and form the smokeless powder plant, said to be the greatest in the world.

 

At midnight the fire was still burning, but it was under control at 2 o'clock the next morning.

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