THUNDER BAY – Local – It’s hard to believe what damage a bit of grain dust can do. This image shows that, once ignited, dust can blow the walls off several stories and much of the foundation of a huge terminal grain elevator.
At noon on September 24, 1952, the workhouse and two annexes of Saskatchewan Pool 4A elevator, on the Port Arthur waterfront, were torn open when dust ignited, immediately killing four men (Steve Wasilkia, Peter Dye, Philip Deer of Newfoundland, and Philip Dorzek) and injuring three others.
The toll would have been much higher if it hadn’t been lunch hour when many workers were out of the building.
This explosion, being only one of several over the years — the largest was probably being Pool 5 in 1945 — compelled the industry to set up a permanent group on grain elevator dust explosion research. In short time, extreme measures were put in place to prevent future explosions.
Text by Tory Tronrud, Thunder Bay Museum
Photo courtesy of the Thunder Bay Museum