Updated: Aug 10, 2022
This BLOG contains sensitive and sometimes graphic details, information and testimonials relating to burn injuries, burn victims, death, disaster survivors and PTSD. Reader discretion is advised.
Want to Listen to this True Story in the WE NEED ICE Podcast?
Welcome back to the miniseries, We Need Ice, Explosion on the Railroad.
I want to remind you to visit weneedice.com for pictures, videos and more info on the 1973 BLEVE which occurred in Kingman, Arizona.
I also want to sincerely thank you for joining me on this journey of telling this true story and paying homage to all it affected.
In the last episode, we discussed the changes the Kingman BLEVE brought about in firefighter training, in the transportation of flammable gas and in the procedures for managing a BLEVE situation. It’s widely known, and particularly in the firefighter industry, that the ’73 BLEVE is credited for modern practices for explosion control and management.
Today, I’ll be talking about how the city of Kingman, Arizona memorializes those lost from and affected by the ’73 BLEVE.
So, let’s get into it.
[KINGMAN FIREFIGHTER OSCAR LOPEZ] "This community, even still to this day, when we get close to July 5th, there's always stuff that occurs. Usually, as a department and as a community, we go to Firefighters Park. We lower the flags to half staff. We have a moment of silence. Sometimes we have family members of the deceased firefighters show up. So, it's one of those things... I don't want to reference 9-11, but it's kind of like 9-11. We go on with our days every single day, but as those dates approach, they have a special meaning for a lot of people. So, for Kingman, July 5th, every year, brings special meaning to our community."
You just heard from Kingman Firefighter, Oscar Lopez. He explains how July 5th is a special day of the year for Kingman and its residents where flags fly at half-mast and many visit the park. He’s referring to Firefighter’s Memorial Park, 11 acres with Picnic shelter area & grills, a playground, frisbee golf stations, soccer fields, a skateboard park and restrooms. But amongst the recreational setups and trails are plaques, monuments and dedications to the firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice on July 5th, 1973.
Yes the largest firefighter disaster in Arizona’s history is now commemorated throughout the grounds of the public park which has become a big part of Kingman’s touristry. Those who like a little history lesson with their R&R, can stroll through the park viewing engraved plaques telling the story of the ’73 BLEVE, and portrait inscribed memorials of the men who died. The concrete benches are also etched in dedication with the names of the firemen who suffered and perished at the hands of the BLEVE.
[KINGMAN FIREFIGHTER OSCAR LOPEZ] "So the park itself, it used to be called Manila. It's, Hualapai Indian Tribe saying - I can't right off the top of my head remember what it stands for. Approximately 15 years ago, I believe it was, they decided to rename the park to 'Firefighters.' That's when the memorial started. So there's a memorial in the center of the park with flags, and then there are a couple of benches that were donated. One has the name of the firefighters that passed away, and then the other bench has the legacy of family members that were part of Butch Henry's family. He's had a lot of family members in the fire service - nephews and stuff like that. Butch, I believe, he was one of the apparatus operators, of the firetruck that day."
Just a side note, and in case you didn’t piece it together, Butch Henry, the firefighter Oscar references, is the same “Butch Henry” my friend K recalls in prior episodes. Butch was her patient at Mohave County Hospital – the man she was solely assigned to pour ice over to doctor his burning body.
If you’re interested in photos and info on Firefighter’s Memorial Park, it’s all available at weneedice.com.
As we are nearing the end of our time together, I hope you’ll stay tuned as I have my own memorial dedication to conduct. I’d like to conclude this podcast paying respects to the 12 men who lost their lives to the Kingman BLEVE nearly 50 years ago. GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. I’d like to request, and if you’re so inclined, that you take it all in as we honor each of the ’73 BLEVE casualties, individually, with a brief but poignant tribute to their lives, commitments to their community, and those they left behind.
Firehouse.com, once more and for the last time, assists me in the details on the following heroes…
"They Gave The Ultimate Sacrifice"
William L. Casson:
District Manager for the electric division of Citizens Utilities Company
William L. Casson, 52 was district manager for Citizens Utilities Co.'s electric division in Kingman and died in the explosion and fire on Thursday, July 5, 1973, while serving as a captain in the Kingman Fire Department. He served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II. He joined the fire department in 1946 and was assistant chief under Chief Joe Miller until Miller's retirement in 1959, at which time Casson took over the reins. Bill left the chief's post in 1964, when he became the utility company's top man here, and under Chief Charlie Potter was Captain Number One. He was married and had four sons and two daughters.
Myron B. (Jimmy) Cox:
Jimmy Cox, 55, perished in the explosion and fire. He was a veteran of the Army Air Corps, where he served more than four years, three of them at Kingman Air Base. He worked for Motor Supply, was a deputy sheriff, a parts manager for Coffman Motors and operated a Mobil Oil Service Station. He had worked for the Kingman Bake Shop since 1960 and was in its employ at the time of his death. He had been a member of the Kingman Fire Department since 1951 and was assistant chief when he was killed. He was married and had three children.
Roger A. Hubka:
Roger Allen Hubka, 27, a volunteer member of the Kingman Fire Department, was one of the three firefighters killed in the explosion and fire. Hubka was employed by McCarthy Motors from the time he arrived in Kingman until a few months before the tragedy, when he started working as service manager at Double G Tire Co., which was destroyed by fire as a result of the explosion. He was married in February 1973.
Joseph M. Chambers III:
Joseph Minter Chambers III, 37, owner and operator of Chambers Exxon Service Station and volunteer member of the Kingman Fire Department with the rank of lieutenant, died of burns suffered in the explosion and fire. Chambers died on Friday, July 6, 1973, at the Maricopa County Hospital Burn Center, where he had been air evacuated for treatment following the explosion. His grandfather, Joseph Minter Chambers, was one of the first firefighters to serve in that capacity in the area. Chambers joined the Kingman Fire Department when he was 21 years old, as soon as he was old enough to serve. In 1963, he began operating the service station, a business in which he had been active until his death. He was married and had two sons.
Arthur C. Stringer:
Arthur Stringer, 25, died on Friday, July 6, 1973 in Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital in Las Vegas, where he had been air evacuated following the explosion. His father, also an employee of the Kingman Fire Department, was burned in the conflagration and was hospitalized at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital, but survived. Stringer was also a war hero. On returning home from Vietnam, he joined the 997th Aviation Company of the Arizona National Guard. Art had been employed full time by the Kingman Fire Department since June 1, 1973. He was married and had one daughter and his wife was expecting another child.
Christopher G. Sanders:
Christopher Grey Sanders, 38, a city fire engineer with the Kingman Fire Department, died of burns suffered in the explosion and fire. Sanders died on Saturday, July, 7, 1973, at St. Joseph's Hospital Burn Center in Phoenix, where he had been air evacuated by helicopter for treatment following the explosion. Sanders began working for the Kingman Fire Department on April 16, 1971, and before that had served as a volunteer firefighter. The fire engineer has also been lauded by his fellow workers for his bravery at the scene of the explosion. Despite his burns, Sanders worked to aid others and wanted to refuse treatment until his fellow firemen had been treated. Witnesses at the fire said Sanders was the first person to respond in helping treat other burned firemen and helped load several into an ambulance before being taken away himself. Sanders was married and had a son, two stepsons and two stepdaughters.
Richard Lee Williams:
Richard Lee Williams, 47, died on Sunday, July 8, 1973, at Good Samaritan Burn Center in Phoenix, where he had been air evacuated for treatment following the explosion. He was the principal of Kingman High School and a volunteer member of the Kingman Fire Department when he died of burns suffered in the explosion and fire. Williams served in the U.S. Navy V-12 program during World War II. He was married and had a son and two daughters. The high school athletic field was renamed in his memory.
Frank S. (Butch) Henry:
Frank Stewart (Butch) Henry, 28, died in Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix on Tuesday, July 10, 1973, of burns suffered in the fire and explosion. At the time of his death, he was the manager of ICX Inc., where he had been employed for seven years. A volunteer fireman, he had been on the official roster for five years, but he had attended fires all his life with his father, George A. Henry, who retired as a 30-year veteran of the Kingman Fire Department. Henry was married and had a son and a daughter.
John O. Campbell:
John Odis Campbell, 42, assistant public works director for the City of Kingman, died on Monday, July 9, 1973, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. A volunteer member of the Kingman Fire Department, he died of burns suffered in the explosion and fire. Air evacuated immediately for treatment after the explosion, he was the 10th person to die as a result of the explosion and fire. He was married had a daughter and two sons.
Donald G. Webb:
Donald Gene Webb, 30, died on Wednesday, July 18, 1973, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. Webb was married and had two children, a daughter, 8, and a son, 5. He was the owner and manager of the Eastside Shell Service Station in Kingman and a volunteer member of the Kingman Fire Department.
Alan Hansen, 34, died on Thursday, July 19, 1973, from burns he received while rendering assistance in explosion and fire. A patrolman with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, he was air evacuated to the Maricopa County Burn Unit in Phoenix immediately following the explosion and was under treatment there at the time of his death. He was a member of the Kingman Fire Department. Hansen joined the Highway Patrol in October 1961 and was stationed in Wickenburg and Gila Bend before returning to Kingman in April 1964. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army and was a member of the Arizona National Guard. He was married and had a son and a daughter.
Marvin E. Mast:
Last but not least is Marvin Mast. Although he was not a firefighter and technically not a casualty of the actual BLEVE, Marvin’s untimely death is well known as part of the ’73 Kingman disaster. He was actually the original “first responder," the Doxol worker who died from the initial explosion which occurred atop the propane tank car, the precursor to the big boom. Marvin’s details I found cited at: findagrave.com.
Marvin Eugene Mast, age 42, was the manager of Doxol Gas Company and Korean War veteran. Marvin, who was on top of the tanker, died from burns from the initial fire that erupted. Marvin Eugene Mast was married with 2 children.
Goodbye’s are bittersweet and this one is no different. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your attention throughout this story. If you want to do your good deed for the day, share it with a friend, colleague or loved one. Help me expand the reach of this true story so those who were taken from this earth in 1973 are not forgotten. Well, until we meet again, let us all hold the community of Kingman Arizona, the living and the looking down, in our hearts.