Texas explosion brings back memories of 'Roseburg Blast'

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- When one Roseburg man learned about the blast at the Texas fertilizer plant on Wednesday, his mind immediately jumped back to the summer of 1959.

That summer, downtown Roseburg was destroyed.

Chuck McCullum, owner of Chuck's Texaco in Roseburg, says he was standing at the Roseburg Fire Department that day when he saw a ball of fire in the sky at least 1,000 feet high.

Much like what people saw in Texas early Thursday morning, when he thinks back to August of 1959, McCullum sees chaos. "Twisted railroad tracks, railroad cars twisted like popsicles and fire all over the place," he said. "It was unreal, just unreal."

A fire in a lumber yard caused a delivery truck loaded with fertilizer and dynamite to blow up.

The Roseburg Blast caused 14 deaths and property losses were estimated to be more than $12 million.

McCullum says he was just 16 years old when the blast happened, and remembers what it looked like the next day. "It was just covered with glass. It looked like it snowed, and buildings all burning."

For McCullum, the Texas fertilizer plant explosion brings back memories. Memories he says made him think about the people there. "I don't wish that on anybody," McCullum said.

The Texas blast happened at the West Fertilizer Co. in a small farming community about 20 miles north of Waco. The thunderous blast shook the ground with the strength of a small earthquake and could be heard dozens of miles away.