Tuesday, November 29, 2022

We will never forget this day!

On November 29, 1988, at approximately 3:40 a.m., the Kansas City Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire at a construction site along U.S. Highway 71 near 87th Street. During the 911 call, a security guard in the background could be heard saying “the explosives are on fire.” Pumper 41 was assigned to the alarm. Dispatchers cautioned Pumper 41 of the potential for explosives at the scene.

At 3:46 a.m., Pumper 41 arrived on-scene and found two separate fires burning and requested an additional pumper be dispatched to assist. Pumper 30 was assigned and arrived on-scene at 3:52 a.m. Discovering multiple fires at the scene, the Incident Commander suspected intentionally set fires and requested law enforcement officers respond to the scene. At approximately 3:57 a.m., Pumper 30 requested a Battalion Chief be dispatched “emergency” to assist. Over the next several minutes, it became clear there was confusion as to if there were actually any explosives on site, or if any were involved in the fires. 4

At 4:02 a.m., a truck, trailer, and large industrial compressor were burning. There is no indication that any of the vehicles, or trailer, were marked indicating the presence of explosives, as markings were not required by the ATF or DOT at that time.

Unknown to the crews of Pumper 41 and 30, the trailer that was burning was actually an explosives storage magazine. At 4:04 a.m., Pumper 41 contacted the Battalion Chief stating that “he’s got magnesium or something burning up here.”

 The Battalion Chief and driver were just arriving on-scene and staged approximately ¼ mile from the scene. At 4:08 a.m., 22 minutes after the arrival of Pumper 41, and 16 minutes after the arrival of Pumper 30, the magazine exploded, killing six Kansas City fire fighters. The Battalion Chief and his driver both suffered minor injuries when the windshield of their staff vehicle was blown in. Approximately 40 minutes after the first explosion, a second explosion occurred with several additional, smaller explosions.

The crater from the initial blast measured 80 feet in diameter and eight feet deep, the crater from the second blast measured 100 feet in diameter and eight feet deep. The subsequent investigation revealed the first explosion involved 20,500 pounds of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil mixture. The second magazine trailer contained 1,000 30-pound containers of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil mixture.

In 1989, the Kansas City Council passed an ordinance adopting the NFPA-704 marking system. The Kansas City Fire Department also implemented new policies requiring notification of blasting material and projects within its jurisdiction. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted regulations requiring all hazardous material transportation containers to maintain appropriate DOT placarding and labels when used as fixed storage.

Also in 1989, the Kansas City Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team was established. The numbers 41 and 30 (Pumper 41 and Pumper 30) were merged to form Hazmat 71 in honor of the crews lost in this incident.

We will never forget the six lives that were lost! 

Search news