On This Date In Twin Cities History - January 11, 1974
On this date in 1974, residents of West St. Paul and surrounding areas were awaken by the loud explosion of a 10,000
gallon propane tank at the Bellows Court and Charlton Park Apartment complex.
The propane tank was being filled from a tank truck when a fire started near the storage tank. Five firefighters responded to the fire and the apartment complex was evacuated. Shortly after firefighters arrived, the tank exploded at 12:40 AM sending a ball of flames 150 feet into the air.
Firemen Erling Armstrong and Richard Neikirk were immediately killed by the blast. A third firefighter, Captain John Heuer, died later at Divine Redeemer Hospital in South St. Paul. Also killed in the explosion was Mrs. Wilmer Peterson, the wife of the apartment complex caretaker.
The explosion occurred on a night when temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees. Eighty-six national guard members were called in after the explosion to patrol the apartment complex which sustained significant damage.
The three firefighters that perished in the explosion are remembered with a bronze tablet placed on a hill-side in Marthaler Park just across the street from the West St. Paul Government Center.