"The sky suddenly lit up. The tanker truck had exploded." That tanker truck was a Standard Oil rig hauling nearly 8,000 gallons of gasoline. It crashed on the Anthony Wayne Trail near Vinton Street and burst into flames.
Don riddle says, "Of any consequence. I had been to several smaller fires, but this was my baptism by fire." It was only Don Riddle's thirteenth day on the job. He says, "I remember that it was the biggest fire I ever saw. When we pulled up to the fire, the smoke and the heat were so intense we didn't know what it was, whether a plane had crashed or people were rescued or what had happened."
The thick, black smoke soon gave way to huge flames and an explosion. Riddle says, "I was probably maybe 75 to 100 feet away. We were trying to advance our hose lines and I had just gone back to pick up a nozzle for a hose line. I turned around and went back to put the nozzle on and it blew up in our faces."
Four firefighters died from their injuries; 71 people were injured, including 38 children and Don Riddle. "I was burned on my hands and face and I was off work for two years and had multiple skin grafts."
Remarkably, Riddle went back to work almost two years to the day of the fire. "I worked 27 more years without a scratch."
Riddle worked with Bob Harrison, who died from injuries sustained in that fire, for the first time that day. Seventeen of the firefighters who fought the Anthony Wayne fire are still living.