David Campbell, Portland Fire Department Chief, was killed at 8:35am on June 26, 1911 while fighting a fire at the Union Oil Company plant at East Water and East Salmon streets (Morning Oregonian, 27-June-2011).
Chief Campbell met death while making courageous efforts to plan the handling of a dangerous fire that had been defying control. He walked cooly into the burning place in search of a possible solution to the grave problem that confronted him and his men. Warned of the risk, he said simply that it was necessary for him to go inside.
Explosion Deals Death
As he passed to the center of the building a fearful explosion wrecked the one-story concrete structure. The Chief was plunged to death in a seething cauldron, amid tons of debris. There was trouble in identifying him when the body was removed three hours later. Accumulation of gases generated in empty oil tanks and exposed to the heat is given as the cause of the fatal explosion.
Chief Campbell was only 47 years old. A progressive leader, Campbell was a force behind the modernization of Portland’s fire department. Well respected by his men and the public alike, his funeral procession drew over 150,000 mourners into downtown Portland. The Campbell Memorial at 18th and West Burnside, dedicated to all Portland firemen killed in the line of duty, is named in his honor.
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