The Freedom Valley Chronicles: West Conshohocken Gas Explosion And Fire – Part Three

The fire in West Conshohocken raged for about 3 hours on the night of January 27, 1971, and the early morning of January 28, 1971.  Fed by a steady supply of natural gas, the fire consumed much of one block of Front Street.

Imagine the heat from the flames seen in the photo above.

As the firefighters attempted to fight the fire, those men also had to fight the elements.

The firefighters also had to stand in harms way as explosions rocked Front Street and debris rained down on West Conshohocken.

The photographs in this part of the news series show what those men faced on a bitterly cold night that no one who bore witness will ever forget.

Mr. Dick Kenna, one of the firefighters of George Clay Fire Company and who was on the scene that night, explained that this photo shows Mr. Joseph Getzfread, one of his fellow firefighters, standing next to one of fire trucks of George Clay Fire Company.

You can see ice covers part of the truck.  Icicles hang from the vehicle, while ice covers even part of the hose and the ladder.  Note the windshield.  Mr. Kenna detailed that the truck was hit by flying debris as explosions hit Front Street.

A closer look of the same fire truck is displayed in this photograph.  You can see the ice on the step, on the lights, and even the bell.  The damage to the windshield provides a good illustration that this was no ordinary fire.

This photograph shows a vehicle of George Clay Fire Company covered in ice.

Mr. Kenna was able to identify Mr. Bill Davis as one of the firefighters of George Clay Fire Company in this photo.  The other firefighter is thus far unidentified.

A firefighter of George Clay Fire Company is seen here taking a break from the firefight.  His helmet and his pants are coated in ice.

According to Mr. Kenna, this is Mr. Ray Reed driving the damaged fire truck back to the station house of George Clay Fire Company.  It was the morning of January 28, 1971.  The cold weather continued.  Ice can be seen here on the lights and the mirror.

Several of the firefighters of George Clay Fire Company are seen here in the basement of the firehouse.  Mr. Kenna indicated that the gentleman to the far left is Mr. Donald “Archie” Tarr, Sr.  Mr. Tarr is one of several firefighters that still have ice on their jackets from fighting the fire and fighting the elements.  Mr. Kenna explained that the lady in the rear of this photo was one of the members of the Ladies Auxiliary of the fire company.

In Part Four, you’ll see photographs of the aftermath from the explosions and fire in West Conshohocken.

The photos are provided as a courtesy by George Clay Fire Company.  If you are able to identify any of the individuals in these photographs, please let us know at

Do you have questions about local history?  A street name?  A building?

Your questions may be used in a future news article.

Contact Richard McDonough at

© 2018 Richard McDonough