San Francisco, CA Steamer PROGRESO Explosion, Dec 1902

EXPLOSION ON STEAMER.

ELEVEN MEN KILLED AND SEVERAL MISSING.

HER FUEL TANKS BLEW UP.

VESSEL WAS LYING AT WHARF OF IRON WORKS IN SAN FRANCISCO. BEING CHANGED INTO AN OIL BURNING AND OIL CARRYING VESSEL.

San Francisco, Dec. 4. -- A terrible explosion occurred on board the steamer PROGRESO while she was lying at the wharf of the Fulton Iron works at Harbor View. As a result eleven men are missing, a score were more or less seriously injured, and property valued at $200,000 was destroyed.
The disaster occurred while forty mechanics of the iron works and twenty employees of the ship were on board. Below the decks the mechanics were busy completing the work of changing the vessel from a coal burning coal carrier to an oil burning carrier, when suddenly one of the oil tanks blew up.
Men were dashed against the steel wall, and a sheet of flame came sweeping into their faces. Those on the upper deck were hurled into the air or thrown into the water. Three sailors engaged in washing paint outside the pilot house disappeared as the cloud of black smoke came up from the ship and were seen no more.
Following the explosion the ship sagged in the center, showing that she had broken in two. In the office of the iron works, twenty feet away, every window was shattered and flying glass cut the faces and hands of many of the officials and clerks.
As they rushed out into the open survivors who were able to help themselves were leaping from the ship. As soon as the panic had subsided the employees of the iron works set to work to rescue men from the burning vessel. A stream of burning oil running from the tanks spread out until the shhip lay on waves of fire. The flames crept under the wharf, and soon the timbers were blazing, adding to the difficulty of the work of rescue.

Ship Burned For Hours.
As the ship was built of steel the fire was nearly all below deck. There were fourteen oil tanks, containing about 400 barrels of oil in all, and despite the efforts of the fire department this continued to burn fiercely for hours after the explosion.
Several minor explosions, due to the flames going from tank to tank, occurred at short intervals, but all the injury and loss of life was caused by the first one. One peculiarity of the explosion was that several men who were on the other side of the bulkhead from where it occurred were uninjured, while others farther away were badly hurt. Several men in the yards were injured by flying debris.
The loss to the Fulton company by the wrecking of the building and the burning of the wharf will exceed $20,000. It is estimated that the PROGRESO was worth about $175,000.
The explosion shook all the buildings at Harbor View, and the shock was felt a mile away. In a few instances windows were broken several blocks from the scene.
James Spiers, Jr., general manager of the Fulton Iron works, is positive that the explosion was due to the oil and not to the bursting of the boiler.
Superintendent Spiers of the Fulton Iron works stated that he believed three or four more names will be added to the list of eleven victims when all of the workmen shall be checked up.

The Daily Times New Brunswick New Jersey 1902-12-04