Great Flood and Fire of 1892

During the early years of oil drilling, people didn’t fully comprehend the possible dangers of oil. Many hundreds of lives were lost during the first few decades after the Drake’s first oil well. One such disaster was the Fire & Flood of 1892. The first domino that set off this catastrophe was a week of heavy rainfall over the Oil City area, culminating in massive flooding of Oil Creek. On the evening of June 4, 1892 flooding of the Oil Creek was so extreme that it flooded the Titusville Water and Gas Work. By midnight, the Spartansburg dam had burst, sending a massive wave of water down Oil Creek, destroying several refineries, filling the flood waters with oil, benzene, and naphtha. By 2am June 5th, Oily water had filled Titusville, flooding many homes and businesses. As the early morning progressed, the oil on the water would catch fire, causing massive explosions. At around 4am, tanks from the International Oil Works on Monroe Street burst into flame, setting fire to buildings along the surrounding streets. As the flooding worsened, families and business owners were forced to evacuate their homes. By 8am, the floodwaters had grown to eight feet tall. As the wall of water spread through the town, rescue boats were sent in by train to help evacuate survivors. At around 10am, over 5000 spectators lined the banks of Oil Creek to watch the disaster unfurl. The combination of naphtha and other chemical rose into the air, coving the scene in an eerie, yellow fog. Those watching saw a flash and a bang from up river followed by two others, and suddenly there was fire everywhere. The flames stretched up to 500 feet in the air, with smoke billowing from it even higher. Buildings would explode when the volatile gas and oil inside ignited. Nearly 75 homes were burned and the city itself was for the most part completely leveled. At the end of the day, rescue committees had been formed to help the homeless, and rescue efforts continued to search for survivors. The death toll stood at 90 with many more missing. At midnight, rescue workers found and saved 16 adults and 5 children stranded behind Oil City Barrel Works. The final death toll was 132, and the property damage exceeded $1,500,000.