Reno, NV Massive Explosion, Aug 1948


Reno, Aug. 16. (AP) -- Fire, a shattering explosion and panic among several hundred spectators left a toll of five dead, one missing and 137 injured in Reno's worst tragedy in its history.
The fire broke out about 10 a.m. yesterday in a false-fronted frame and brick building in the old business district. It drew several hundred onlookers, massed around the scene just a few blocks east of the city's gambling quarter.
The sudden explosion and fire killed the fire chief of a nearby city and four men. A sixth, a Reno fireman, was missing. The blast sprayed injury among the spectators. Some were trampled in the rush to get away.
As firemen fought to prevent the blaze from spreading to adjoining buildings, a policeman warned the crowd to get back -- that "there's dynamite in there."
"A few of the timid retreated," said JOHN SANFORD, city editor of the Reno Gazette. "The rest pushed closer. There was a roar. Smoke, shot through with spurts of flame, blanketed a half block of Lake Steet."
District Attorney HAROLD TABER said preliminary investigation's disclosed no dynamite involved in the blast.
Taben and Reno detectives joined the fire department in a continuing investigation of the explosion and fire. Property damage was estimated, unofficially, at between $100,000 and $300,000.
The blast blew out the front of the building, which housed small shops, a vacant cafe, and a small rooming house. A slot machine -- one of those under repair in one of the shops -- went booming across the street. Shoes were blown off some spectators.
The crowd, showered with smoking debris and splinter glass, broke in panic. Some were trampled underfoot. Others were badly cut. All available ambulances were summoned, some racing to Reno from points as distant as Truckee, Calif., 35 miles west of here.
While the injured were being rushed to three hospitals, rescue crews went into the still-smouldering ruins of the building to recover the bodies of these five victims:
Fire Chief HOBSON, 55, of adjacent Sparks.
Capt. GLENN DAVIS, 35, and Fireman EARL B. PLATT, both of the Reno Fire Department.
Two Civilian Volunteer Rescue Workers, DOMINIGO GALLI, 28, and BILL BYRON, about 50.
Missing was HAROLD HODSON, 26, Reno fireman who had the day off but who has reported to have gone to the blaze.
At a late hour last night, all of the hospitalized injured except 36 had been treated and released. An undetermined number of persons received emergency first aid treatment at a station quickly set up by the Red Cross near the blast scene.

The Abilene Reporter-News Texas 1948-08-16