Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

     June 22, 1947
     The S.S. Markay Explosion
     L.A. Harbor

American President Lines Fire

By Floyd J. Adams

    The exploding tanker, The S. S. Markay, sent a flaming blast across Slip 1 to partially wreck and ignite the warehouses at Berth 153 and the Southern portion of Berth 154.

    Fire boats, 2 and 3 responding to the first alarm, found the waters between Berths 167-168 and 153-155 afire from burning gasoline.  The fire had rapidly involved the pier head and was spreading to the docks of the Union Oil Company's Marine loading terminal.

    Fire Boat No. 1 which responded on the Second Alarm, Fire Boats 2 and 3 together with a Coast Guard Fire Boat and hand lines attacked the spreading fire at the pier head and succeeded in stopping it before it spread to the Union Oil Company's Marine loading terminal.

As soon as was possible, Fire Boat No. 2 was ordered to make a break through the burning channel and take a position to the North of the burning piers and warehouses.  On the third attempt, Fire Boat No. 2 successfully navigated the burning channel and tied up in the center of Berth 154 where a stop was made.

    A transverse bulkhead under the wharf and a fire wall inside the warehouse were helpful in making the stop.

    Boat No. 2 tied up south of the transverse bulkhead and by using it's turrets and rail standees stopped the fire at this point.  The skiff carried on Boat No. 2 was put over the side and used 1 1/2" lines to extinguish the portions underneath the wharf that couldn't be reached with the rail standees.

    The fire involving the American President Lines Ltd. wharf and shed was fought from the land side by ten engine companies, two truck companies and Boat Tender No. 2.

Page Four The Firemen's Grape Vine
Firemen working at Berth 153, removing empty cylinders of
rock gas from inside the burning warehouse.
Approximately 1000 feet of dock destroyed.  Picture was taken at Pier "A" street, looking south.

 Engine Companies 49, 38, 53, 36 and Truck Company 48 all from the Wilmington-San Pedro area, who responded on the First Alarm, aided by Engine Company 7,  45, 46, 50, 58, 66, Truck Company 4, who responded form Los Angeles on a greater alarm, laid large amounts of 2 1/2" hose from D-4" Hydrants.

    By taking hand lines to the roof and using various types of cellar nozzles under the burning wharf, they attacked the fire from above and below.

    Boat Tender No. 2 using lines from hydrants was backed through a fire door at the center of Berth 154 where, with the aid of a portable monitor, succeeded in stopping the fire from inside the burning warehouse.

    The fire was brought under control by 6:30 a. m. after more than four hours of HARD fire fighting.  At about 8:00 a. m. overhauling operations were started, with the Los Angeles Companies remaining at the fire and the Harbor Companies "picking up" and returning to Quarters.

July 1947 Page Five

This article appeared in the July 1947 issue of The Firemen's Grape Vine.

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