December 1947: Powerful Blast Destroys House, Injures Fumigation Crew, Kills Neighbor

L.A. Times, 1947

Before the introduction of Vikane, also known as Sulfuryl Fluoride, pesticide companies relied on hydrocyanic gas, a compound used to exterminate termites—and in California’s lethal gas chamber.

That’s what a crew from Guarantee Fumigating Co. was pumping into the home at 2002 Virginia Road. They told arson investigators that they had turned off the electricity and gas so they had no explanation for the spectacular explosion that reduced the home to tiny bits, caused heavy damage to the surrounding homes and shattered windows for a block in every direction.

L.A. Times, 1947

Fred Lopez, the only crew member not to be hospitalized, said: “Chester Pencille, the boss, was in the driveway when she blew up and he went right through the stucco wall of the house next door. I was directly in front of the house and I sailed 50 feet out into the street.

“It was a bright flash and a big roar. Parts of the house were right in the air with me. I don’t know why they didn’t fall on me and smash me. But all I got was this cut on my hand.”

The destruction killed an elderly neighbor, Jennie Bodker. The two retired teachers who had remodeled the house, Mary Kimball and Louise Van Camp, sued termite company for $45,154, but The Times never reported on the outcome of their claim.

Bonus factoid: Ten-B-Low—Real Ice Cream in Cans! arrives in Los Angeles.

1) Add 1½ cups water to contents of TEN-B-LOW can.

2) Partially freeze in refrigerator

3) Whip in your preferred flavor

4) Freeze solid

Quote of the day: “We had a tiff. But we’ve had tiffs before, as what couple married eight years hasn’t? But I expect when Jane gets back from New York we’ll get back together all right.”
Ronald Reagan, on rumors that he and Jane Wyman were separating.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Fires, Food and Drink and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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