SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The selling and shooting of fireworks inside the city limits of Springfield has been prohibited for over 67 years because of a severe incident that resulted in a building fire and some deaths.
According to John Sellars emeritus executive director for the Springfield History Museum on the Square, it all started on June 28, 1955. At that time, fireworks were for sale everywhere including the Consumers Warehouse Market on West College street.
“It was a day of the week when there wasn’t a lot of business in there. So there were a lot more employees than there were customers, thank goodness… But about 10:00 that morning, something happened. Something set one of the fireworks off and immediately engulfed the whole front of the building in flames, blew the windows and doors out and blocked all exits out of the front of the store where the entrances were,” said Sellars.
He said 15 employees and one customer were able to escape out the back door, but there were still three people inside.
“They hid in a bathroom and sadly they all suffocated. It was a lady from Miller, Missouri, and then two children, a little girl, seven years old, and her 11-year-old sister who had gone to the store to get some milk for a sick neighbor,” said Sellars.
The public cried out to stop selling fireworks in the city. The mayor called a special city council meeting and they passed a resolution that outlawed firework sales in the city.
Although the city fire code states the possession, manufacture, storage, offer or exposure for sale, selling at retail, handling and discharge of fireworks are prohibited, an exception is granted for the use of the fireworks for a public display with a valid permit.
Novelty items, described as snappers, party poppers, toy smoke devices or glowworms, and some sparklers, have been declassified as explosives.
The Consumer’s Warehouse building is now a part of the public school system.