August 21, 1947
A suspicious fire at the Charles F. Willard Chemical Co. plant at 5810 S. Soto Street today ignited thousands of 5 gallon tins of auramine dye powder, an extremely flammable product extracted from surplus Army flares. The exploding dye sent a mushroom cloud more than 1000 feet into the air, and caused an estimated $100,000 damage to the plant.
None of the five employees on the scene was injured, and Charles Willard stated that he believed the explosion was triggered by burning weeds in an adjacent lot. This explanation was doubted by Assistant Chief W.H. Burwell of Huntington Park Fire Department, one of five municipal fire departments to respond to the blaze, who suspects the fire began inside the yard, and said his department would investigate.