Hampton Union, Thursday, April 9, 1953
Fire, causing an estimated $100,000 loss ignited by an explosion, raged through the Floktex company shoe fabric plant on the Exeter Road Friday, gutting the building and destroying all equipment, an apartment upstairs and approximately 10,000 yards of shoe lining material.
The blast sent huge, dense clouds of black smoke billowing skyward, attracting several hundred spectators from the surrounding countryside. Though firemen arrived at the scene minutes after the alarm was sounded, they found the building an inferno with flames beyond control, Hampton Fire Chief George Lamott said.
Within fifteen minutes after the explosion, which occurred in a curing oven, the forward wall of the large, brick building crashed to the ground. Because of the danger from the highly inflammable drums of adhesive used in processing the lining material and the hazard of collapsing walls and girders, firemen encountered much difficulty in battling the conflagration.
Minor InjuriesFive employees, suffering minor injuries of cuts and superficial burns, and two others barely escaped from the plant before the mushrooming flames engulfed the whole building.
Those in the plant were: Russell Judkins, 28, and his brother, Robert, 23, of Exeter; George Couture 57, of Lawrence, Mass.; Walter Herring, 39, of North Andover, Mass.; Walter Roger, 44, of Exeter; Richard Bowen, son of the plant manager Manton Bowen, home on leave from Fort Slocum, New York, was working on his car inside the factory when the explosion occurred. He reported a blast so great that the resultant vacuum within the walls where he was working caused the tires of his car to burst.
He also said that the family dog perished in the flames. The Bowen family made their home in an upstairs apartment. It was impossible to save anything, young Bowen said. He attempted to reach the upper level of the building, but flames burst through the walls after he had gained but a few steps. Mr. and Mrs. Bowen were not in the building at the time of the disaster.
Within 25 minutes after the blast the building had been completely leveled except for the rear wall and sections of the side walls. Steel girders had been twisted completely out of shape by the high degree of heat.
It is believed that sparks dropping from the roof ignited the shed where the drums of adhesive were stored as a fire-wall stood between the shed and the main plant. When the drums exploded a pillar of fire shot 200 feet into the air.
Because of the proximity of power lines to the plant, electricity was shut off for about 30 minutes, causing Newmarket, During, Newington, and Exeter to lose part or all power.
A secretary of the Mitchell Express company of Hampton, Miss Betty Bock of Beach Road, was parking her car in the company yard opposite the Floktex concern when the explosion happened. She said it felt as if her car had been lifted from the ground. When she turned around to see what had happened the building was engulfed in flames, and heavy, black smoke had already reached high in the air. She rushed into the express company office and told the telephone operator who sounded the alarm.
People almost a half more distant from the plant reported that they could feel the tremor of the blast in their own homes.