Thursday, October 6, 2016
FORT LAUDERDALE - 1969
On Jan. 13, 1969, fire broke out at the Everglades Fertilizer Plant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and burned for three days, fueled by tons of toxic chemicals.
Yellow smoke billowed from the site and drifted over the city.
Of the the 100 firefighters at the blaze, more than a quarter were diagnosed with cancer.
In the years that followed, many succumbed to the disease.
Their average age was 60, according to a history of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.
Firefighters were equipped - if at all - with canister masks that filtered out toxic gases, primitive forerunners of today's self-contained breathing apparatus.
"It was a witches` brew, and you had these guys inhaling it," said fire Lt. Stephen McInerny, quoted in a 1990 article in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.