The Roseburg Blast
Friday July 29, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Whether it's an accidental industrial explosion, a surprise terrorist attack, or a planned demolition project, today we are well aware of the effect powerful explosives can have. In 1959 that power caught the citizens of Roseburg, Oregon, off guard and caused one of the worst explosive disasters in Oregon history.
About 1:00 a.m. on a calm August morning, fire broke out in a building supply store in the heart of town. By the time the first fire truck arrived the building was engulfed and flames were lapping at a truck parked in front. The bad news: the truck was packed with explosives.
The resulting blast leveled eight business district blocks and damaged commercial and residential structures in a twenty- to thirty-block radius. Thirteen people died that morning and another one hundred twenty-five were injured including the truck driver, who had parked his fully loaded rig in a populated area and taken a room for the night in a hotel three blocks away.
Today one finds the city core has been redeveloped, transportation routes realigned and ordinances passed that regulate the transport of explosives. Though the scars are well hidden by now, the "Roseburg Blast" is an indelible part of the city's history.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler with help from the Douglas County Museum, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
with help from the Douglas County Museum
Musser, Dean V. "Roseburg Oregon Disaster, August 7, 1959." unpublished manuscript, report by Oregon State Fire Marshall; "Roseburg Historic Downtown, Blast Walking Tour," brochure published by the City of Roseburg, 2004; Lane, Mike (Roseburg fire division chief), phone conversation with author, May 16, 2005.