The Fort Dodge Messenger: Jan. 24, 1906
Gasoline Brings Awful Disaster
Bartender is Almost Burned to Death
Rushes from the Colby Building a Human Torch of Flame.
5 Gallons Exploded
Acetylene Lighting Plant Exploded With the Rest
Saloon is Wrecked
Francis Cannot Survive … Lou Chapman Also Burned
Fred Francis is burned in such a manner that it is not thought possible for him to live through the day. Lou Chapman was seriously burned and the fixtures of the Colby saloon were wrecked by a gasoline explosion which occurred in the place about 6:30 this morning.
Francis, as the time of this writing, is confined in the hospital unable to speak of the manner of the disastrous accident, but the most authentic accounts which can be obtained are to the effect that on opening the saloon bur business this morning, Francis, the bartender, started to light the fire with gasoline. Chapman was standing with his back to Francis, who was pouring gasoline from a five gallon can into the stove. The first that he knew of the explosion was when he was nearly knocked off his feet by a shock which struck him in the back. He rushed out of the rear door with his clothes partly on fire where he was caught by a couple of hackmen and the fire extinguished.
Francis a Living Torch.
Jake Schmoll, from the window of his saloon across the street from Colby’s was an eye witness to the burning of Francis. He says that he happened to be looking out the window and saw a blinding sheet of flame leap out of the front of the Colby building. An instant late (sic) Francis ran shrieking out of the doorway, a living torch. With flames darting about his body and enveloping him form head to foot he turned form the door of the saloon and started into the livery barn. He was about to rush down into the basement where the horses are kept when oneof (sic) the men called frantically to him to stop. He turned then, apparently wild with fright and ran out door (sic) again. He tripped just outside the door and fell on the sidewalk.
Two men with blankets were on him in an instant trying to smother the flames. The first blanket that they attempted to wrap him in burned in their very hands. With the second they succeeded in stifling the flames and Francis, naked except for his shoes, his body blackened with smoke and a mass of burns from head to foot was carried to the hospital.
Firemen Do Quick Work.
The efforts of the firemen who were on the scene in record time probably saved the entire Colby block from destruction. After the gasoline can in the hands of Francis exploded, the interior of the saloon was soon a mass of flames. Just as the fire wagon turned Sackett and Haire’s corner the acetylene lighting plant blew up. They state that they distinctly saw a sheet of flame shoot out of the entire front of the building a distance of fifteen or twenty feet, blowing out the plate glass windows and the glass in the door. They expected to have hard work in saving the livery barn, but after an hour of fire fighting extinguished the last spark, the flames and smoke having ruined nothing but the fixtures and the interior of the saloon. The damage in this quarter will be about five hundred dollars ($11,975 today). It is covered by insurance.
Death of Francis Hourly Expected.
Francis is in a most pitiable condition at the hospital. His body is a mass of burns and he is suffering great pain. The doctors state that he cannot recover and that his death may be expected at any moment. Chapman’s burns are confined to his back and hands. Physicians state that he will be able to be about in a few days.
An examination of the Colby saloon gives a good idea of the force of the explosion. Pieces of plate glass are found scattered out in the stret (sic) a disetance (sic) of ten or fifteen feet where they were thrown when the windows were blown out and the entire front of the building seems to have been shaken.
A give gallon gasoline can was found inside, a twisted broken mass of metal, and the can used to contain the gasoline used in the lighting plant was found to be in a similar condition. It is supposed that the lighting plant caught fire and blew up when the interior became enveloped in flames, from the first explosion.
Francis is a man about forty-five years of age. He has lived in Fort Dodge for a number of years. He has several children living in this city, all of whome are well known. Chapman lives at 505 Central Avenue. He has been imployed as a hack driver by Colby Brothers for about a year.
Accident Teaches Lesson.
Though it seems unnessary (sic) to say anything on the dangers attendant to t he use of gasoline, particularly if it is used carelessly, yet the accident above described seems to warrant a few words on the subject. Gasoline at best if a dangerous compound. Unless the utmost care along many lines is used, one knows not the hour or the instant that death and deconstruction may break forth through its agenty.
Acetylene lighting systems seem also to be dangerous things to handle, and in the case this morning the greatest damage resulted was through the explosion of the lighting plant.
Superintendent Clark of the Light and Power company examined the tank in which the gasoline and compressed air for such a plant is kept, immediately after the accident this morning. He states that he measured the thickness of the iron and found it to be 1-33 of an inch, and of poor quality English iron. Experiment tables show that iron of this kind in such thickness is made to stand a pressure on the head of the tank of 1,250 pounds, whereas, to get a strong light, a pressure of 15,000 is needed. This makes a pressure of seven tons against a surface which is meant to withstand only about one half of a ton.
He states that in cities where an engineer is employed to inspect lights, factories and machinery, such appliances are not allowed within the city limits, and further that the same pressure is placed staging that thin sheet 1-32 of an inch in thickness that is withstood in the tanks of the Light and Power Co., which are a full inch thick, made of the best quality of cold drawn steel and stamped by a government inspector.
The Fort Dodge Messenger: Jan. 26, 1906
Fred Francis Dies From Burns
Man Injured in Colby Saloon Explosion Succumbs to His Injuries.
Death Came at 4.30 Yesterday
No Chance for Recovery From the State – Funeral Occurs Tomorrow – Deceased Leaves Four Children – Three Live Here
Fred Francis, the bartender at Colby Bros. saloon, who was the victim of one of the most appalling accidents of recent years in Fort Dodge yesterday morning, when the explosion of a five gallon can of gasoline enveloped him in a fiery furnace from head to foot, died at the hospital about 4:30 yesterday afternoon, after nearly ten hours of suffering.
Burned From Head to Foot.
Francis was in a most pitiable condition when taken from the scene of the tragedy. It is almost impossible to gain a correct idea of the extent of his injuries. His body was burned from head to foot. His hair and beard were singed from his head, and when the flames were finally stifled the only part of his clothing that remained upon his body consisted of his shoes. A grewsome (sic) object which shows only too well the awful nature of his burns was found near the Colby barn about eight o’clock. It was nothing less than the skin and flesh of the inside of his left hand, containing intact several of his finger nals and of nearly a half inch in thickness.
The doctors i (sic) attendance stated from the first that there was absolutely no hope for his recovery and that at the best it would not be possible for him to live more than a few days. Francis was conscious from the first, but immediately on his removal to the hospital was kept under the influence of anaesthetics (sic). All day long the nurses and physicians administered to him, seeking to allay his agony and striving to keep alive the spark of life.
Francis did not at any time realize how badly he was injured and those in attendance hesitate to tell him that he was doomed to death. He kept saying, “I’ll be all right in a few days,” and during his talking told in full how the accident happened. He stated that he was lighting the fire by throwing gasoline from a cup into the stove in which some fire was still burning and the can was on the floor. While occupied in this manner a sheet of flame burst from the stove door and set his clothing on fire. It was then that he ran from the room and it is supposed that immediately after the flame reached the can of gasoline and the big explosion took place. He said he had lighted the fire in that manner hundreds of time and ended by saying, “I guess it was once too often.”
Francis has been a resident of Fort Dodge for about ten years or more. He has been employed by Colby Bros. for about four or five years, working part of the time in this city and the remainder in the saloon of the firm at Vincent. He leaves four children, his wife having preceded him in death about three years. Of his children, Miss Florence and two young boys who are in school reside in this city at the family home which is located on North Seventh street, in the rear of Corpus Christi church. James, a young man about twenty-five years of age, joined the navy about two years ago. It is stated that the wife of hte deceased was a cousin of “Buffalo Bill” and that she received a visit from that person on his tour through this section a number of years ago.
The funeral of Mr. Francis will be hed (sic) tomorrow morning, at nine o’clock in Colfax township, where friends of the family reside. His father, who lives in the eastern part of the state has been notified, and wil (sic) arrive in the city tonight. Other relatives will also be here to assist at the burial.