Marianna, FL Explosion And Fire, Aug 1952




Marianna, Fla. -- (Special) -- Seven persons were injured, two buildings were destroyed and several others were damaged by an explosion and fire which occurred in the heart of Marianna's business district, about 7:30 this morning.
Marianna Drug Store and Smith's Fashion Shop were leveled by the blast and resulting flames.
Gulf Life Insurance Building, a two-story structure, and Turner's a ready-to-wear establishment, both located adjacent to the destroyed buildings, were severely damaged by the flames.
Other downtown buildings as far away as a block sustained plate glass damage.
Those most severely injured were identified as CHARLES McDONALD, a Pensacola salesman for the Lyons Drug Company, of New Orleans, who was in the drugstore at the time of the explosion; LAWRENCE GUESS, a Marianna insurance agent; and GEORGE JOHNSON, a store janitor.
All three were hospitalized at Jackson County Hospital but their injuries were not believed to be serious.
J. C. SMITH, owner of the Fashion Shop, suffered slight injuries.
A fifth person, FLOYD HARRIS, manager of F. C. Daffin Company, a building supply firm, located about half a block from the scene of the blast, suffered slight cuts when he was struck by flying glass as he stood in front of his office building.
The explosion shattered glass windows in the second story of the Daffin building and tore off HARRIS' eye-glasses.
Fire departments from Panama City, Sneads, Chipley and Dothan, Ala., and at least seven members of the State Forestry Service were rushed to the scene to aid in the battle against the fire.
At about 9:30 a.m. -- two hours after the explosion
-- the fire was reported under control. The cause of the explosion had not been determined, but it is believed the blast was set off by a tank of bottled gas located in the drug store.
The Associated Press quoted Harry Bell, Marianna city and fire commissioner, who operates a grocery store not far away, as saying,
"It looked like a bomb had been dropped."
Sonny Harris, of radio station WTYS, said, "It just disintegrated. It was here yesterday and it's not here now."
The drugstore had not opened for business when the explosion occurred, but several persons were standing nearby. Some of them were cut by flying glass and debris.
Parts of the drug store were blown across the street.
Plate glass windows were shattered all along the street, including those of one store -- Chipola Drug Company -- located eight stores down the street.
The Marianna drugstore and the Fashion Shop were one-story brick buildings about the center of the block.
No estimates on total damage could be obtained this morning, but Lucien W. Watson, owner of Marianna Drug Company building, estimated his minimum loss would be $35,000.
Mrs. J. C. Smith, wife of the owner of the Fashion Shop, said their complete stock was destroyed. She said the loss would be "heavy" but she could furnish no against the raging flames which by Miss Mildred Conley.
City employes, from all departments, were thrown into the fight against the raging flames which followed the explosion.
Units of Florida Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies were stationed at strategic points to keep traffic moving.
The damaged buildings fronted on Lafayette street with their rears toward Market street.
A similar blast and fire last February wiped out nine buildings.

Panama City News-Herald Florida 1952-08-14