1968 Red Ball Gas House Explosion

July 6, 2023
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The event depicted in the image is the aftermath of the "Red Ball Gas House Explosion." The Red Ball Gas House gas station was located about one mile south of Kennedale or four miles outside the Mansfield city limits and southeast of Fort Worth in Tarrant County on what is now U.S. Business Highway 287. Just before 7 p.m. July 31, 1968, a tanker truck was refilling the ground-level storage tank at the service station when sparks from the truck set a small amount of fuel, which had overflowed around the storage tank from the transfer, on fire. The Mansfield Volunteer Fire Department arrived shortly after 7 p.m. At approximately 7:30 p.m., as Harry Blissard (the Chief of the Mansfield Volunteer Fire Department) was backing away and just as the Arlington Fire Department’s foam truck was moving into position, vapors from the boiling fuel in the 7,000-gallon storage tank, functioning like a fuse, caught fire and caused the tank to explode; a “great ball of fire” reached an estimated 175 to 200 yards in diameter as it shot out. Thirty-one people were injured in the explosion. Two Manfield firefighters--Harry Blissard and Shirley Clyde Copeland--died as a result of the severe burns they received.

To learn more about Mansfield history, check out the Mansfield Historical Museum, 102 N. Main St., open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free. For more info, call 817-473-4250, emailmuseum@mansfieldtexas.gov or go to mansfieldhistory.org.

Photo courtesy of the Mansfield Historical Society.

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