When a security guard said explosives were on fire, 911 failed to ask, “What kind?” It was 20 years ago, but the early morning fire that led to the death of six firemen and the destruction of two fire trucks is still fresh in the minds of those brave men and women of the Kansas City Fire Department and the citizens of Kansas City. However, the fire led to better placard marking and identification procedures of hazardous and explosive materials in the assignment of the fire service to active fires. The case may have points of interest for those of us in the risk and claim business.

“A nine-year investigation determined that the fire that caused the explosion was deliberately set, and five people were convicted of the crime,” reported Robert Burke in the November 2008 issue of Firehouse Magazine. Burke is a fire marshal at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and is a hazardous materials expert. “New research, however, has led to the case being reopened with the possibility of those convictions being overturned,” he continued. His story begins at 3:40 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 29, 1988, when the Kansas City Fire Department received a call for a fire at a highway construction site. One security guard called 911 to report the fire, and perceptible in the background of the call was another guard saying, “The explosives are on fire.”

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