Fire Department To Commemorate 80th Anniversary Of Richfield Fire

For many, the notion of a local fire captivating thousands of awe-struck spectators is the stuff of movies.

But 80 years ago, such a fire actually occurred along rural Fluvanna Avenue, claiming the lives of four Jamestown firemen and leaving an indelible mark in the department’s history.

On June 18, 1934, firefighters from the Jamestown and Fluvanna fire departments raced toward the Richfield Oil Company after a tanker truck exploded.

Firefighters Harold D. Anderson, Oscar H. Bloom and Walter H. Kastenhuber with Jamestown’s Engine Company 5 – located near the intersection of West Sixth Street and Fairmount Avenue – responded to the scene along with Chief’s Aide Raymond W. Allison from Station 1 at City Hall.

At the scene, the gasoline-soaked ground in and around the refinery had created a massive inferno, complete with large black clouds clogging both sides of Fluvanna Avenue.

Despite several warnings, hundreds of spectators gathered at the scene, watching firefighters battle the blaze throughout the afternoon.

When three large gas tanks at the refinery suddenly exploded, flames reportedly flew 250 feet into the air and rolled fire upward and over the firefighters and spectators.

Firefighters, who didn’t wear fire-resistant material at that time, were engulfed in flames, while several in the crowd sustained severe burns.

Kastenhuber and Bloom, both horribly burned, died at the scene. Allison and Anderson died the following day of their injuries.

The fire was out by nightfall.

For the Jamestown community, and particularly those with the Jamestown and Fluvanna fire departments, the Richfield fire is a constant reminder of the danger – and bravery – involved in firefighting.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Richfield fire and honor the four men killed, the Morton Club Beneficiary Association of the Jamestown Fire Department will hold a memorial service Wednesday at 3:20 p.m. at Fire Station 5, located at 195 Fairmount Ave. The public is invited to attend.