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The Broxburn Oil Works Fire

As reported in our late editions yesterday, fire broke out yesterday afternoon in one of the large oil tanks in Broxburn Oilworks, the result, it is supposed, of a spark falling from the chimney through the manhole. Dense volumes of smoke and flame at once shot up in an alarming manner. the works brigade were shortly on the spot, and with a plentiful supply of water at their command kept a continuous stream playing on the adjacent tanks to keep them cool.

One of the tanks below the burning one, however, exploded also, and a third almost immediately afterwards. The oil escaping from the tanks ran through the works burning all the way. It seems as if a large portion of the works would be enveloped in flames, especially as the wind had shifted. The refinery and laboratory were at one time in considerable danger, but happily the efforts of the men to avert damage in this direction were successful.

The flowing oil was damped down, and the oil from the adjacent tanks ran off, thus averting further explosions. Water and sand were then applied freely to the centre of the outbreak, and by six o'clock all danger was past. No serious incident to workmen took place. The excitement in Broxburn as the explosions took place was considerable, hundreds of men and women running to the works. When the explosions took place there must have been in each of the three tanks at least two thousand gallons of oil.

In a talk with an employee last night our representative was informed that then the second explosion took place nearly one hundred workmen ran the risk of being scaled to death. Had the oil stored in this tank not been exhausted by the first fire there can be little doubt that many lives would have been lost. As it turned out, the operatives engaged fighting the flames escaped with but slight injuries. Various estimates are given of the damage.


A sad death from excitement took place at Mid Street during the fire. Mrs Archibald, who resided at No. 192, on the second explosion taking place, ran out of her house in an excited state, and no sooner had she got out than she fell down in a faint. She was carried into the house, but before medical assistance could be got she expired. Deceased had suffered from weak action of the heart for some time.

The Edinburgh Evening News, 20th August 1897


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