The day 16 died in the oilfield fire – Trinidad & Tobago

One day in 1928, Mr Hackshaw was working at the match factory owned by Alston and Company Ltd up in Port of Spain, when a wooden ruler fell from his grasp and landed on a container filled with matches.

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The ignition set off an explosion that blew the roof off the room, and burnt 18 people. Hacksaw lived to testify at the coroner’s inquest, but five employees of the company, now known as AMCO, died in one of the worst worksite accidents to happen for many years.

But that tragedy would be overshadowed by what happened down South in December of that year, when a cataclysmic explosion rocked the area, setting off an oilfield fire in Trinidad that burned for three days, ending the million-dollar dreams of several black-gold hunters.

At the time, the island was in an oil boom, with more than 14 companies drilling 1,452 wells, the majority on Crown lands, and most striking oil.

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Things were so good that the then-very important town of Fyzabad was attracting small islanders by the hundreds, coming to clear the forest to get to the drill sites (that’s how legendary union leader Grenadian-born Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler ended up in Trinidad).

So much oil was being found (7.7 million barrels in 1928) that the colonial government’s Mines Department was reporting plans to replace the six-inch pipeline from Fyzabad to the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, which had exported 222,600,000 gallons of petroleum products that year, earning revenue that exceeded in value our export of cocoa, sugar/molasses/rum, asphalt, coconuts and copra.

Among the oil giants of the time were Trinidad Leaseholders Ltd (TLL), United British Oilfields of Trinidad (UBOT), and Trinidad Central Oilfields (TCO), and Apex Oilfields—names still remembered in oil-producing regions of the island.

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But there were also oil speculators, rich folks who wanted to be magnates.

And that is how Fyzabad Dome Oilfields was formed.

The day 16 died in the oilfield fire  Trinidad & Tobago Express Newspapers

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