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City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle
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City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  148 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
On a day that dawned with brisk breezes, a clear sky, and perfect temperatures, the small town of Texas City suddenly found itself facing the greatest industrial disaster in the most industrialized nation on the planet. And, in time, the survivors of that all-American city found themselves wondering if their own government had delivered them into this hell on earth. In 194 ...more
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Great book about a disaster that many people don't seem to know about. The book is about what happened to Texas City, Texas when the SS Grandcamp caught fire with ammonium nitrate fertilizer on board. It also describes the aftermath and the legal issues that followed. This is a re-read for me prior to a trip to Houston, Texas. One of the places we plan to visit is Texas City. If you enjoy unknown history of the US, I suggest this reading this one.
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
The reason I read this book was because my book club listed "City on Fire" as our next read, but there were two of this title at the library: the newer, fiction from 2015 and this, a non-fiction. I could have called or sent a text for the author's name, but instead I simply read both. And I liked this one better. Even though I'd lived in Texas for a number of years, I'd never heard about this Texas City disaster. Why do we bury our disasters? As of 2003 (the publication date of this book), why d ...more
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs, disaster "enthusiasts"
Great book on an unheard-of disaster. Well, at least I never heard of it and I'm sure other people haven't either. Remarkable that so many things, so much stupidity could lead to such a devastating event. Yet another book that goes to show how money is more important than people and when you try to get help from your government, you're shunned. These poor people living in the shadows of war and post-war production of dangerous chemicals and materials never even knew what hit them. What a slap in ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book I read in about a week, which is very fast for me! I could hardly put it down. A very thorough and engaging book about the Texas City Disaster in 1947, when a ship carrying ammonium nitrite exploded and killed 581 or more people. The true number of dead will never be known. I can recommend this book but beware of the chapter immediately following the explosion for harrowing descriptions of some injuries and deaths. The explosion was followed by a landmark legal case, c ...more
Jessica Brown
Aug 07, 2010 rated it liked it
I found the writing style a bit choppy at first, as the book jumps from 1st person narrator to 1st person narrator. Still overall an engaging book about a horrible disaster I'd never heard of.
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent non-fiction account of the disaster in Texas City, Texas. on April 16, 1947. Texas city is a little city on the Gulf Coast where the petro-chemical industry, with the US Government, as a knowing participant, blatently ignored the welfare of its blue collar whites, and working poor blacks/Hispanics turned its back on a situation which cost almost two thousand people their lives, injuring more than 5,000 and has become the most deadly industrial accident in US history.

The Fren
Rod Carstens
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
City on Fire is a detailed account of the Texas City disaster. A freighter with a cargo of ammonium nitrate exploded in the harbor. It was so powerful it literary destroyed the city. In Houston 45 miles away windows were broken by the explosion. The whole fire department died in the first explosion. Help had to come from Houston and other cities. This is detailed personal account of those who survived and the aftermath. Another ship in the harbor explodes soon after adding to the destruction. It ...more
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was fascinated by this book. It reads like a novel but is nonfiction. I had never heard of the Texas City disaster and yet, all considered, it wasn't that long ago (1947). An explosion results when the cargo (ammonium nitrate fertilizer) in a large container ship ignites. It has a domino effect and things go from bad to worse. Interesting characters include a priest who has a premonition of his own death. I never heard of this event, and yet, I thought that part of history was to learn from ou ...more
Oct 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I have read several accounts of the Texas City explosion that occured right after WWII, when a group of volunteer firefighters tried to douse a phosphate fire in a freighter resulting in one of the greatest disasters in US history. The explosion took out most of the city, threw chunks of bulkhead for miles, and wiped out most of the people who were observing the fire. An amazing account.
Niki Whiteside
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Isn't it amazing what we take for granted? Safety is not a given and a small thing can forever alter the world as we know it.

I live just a few miles up the road from where this occurred and have visited the sites since, including the small cemetery. What a tragedy for this small town.
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book, for such a sad subject. I would be interested to know how long the idea of " in the best interest of the government" lasted. And if that was the case, I'm shocked the government allowed the Agent Orange lawsuits to go forward.
Jim Bremser
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Good book, a disaster we should not forget.
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book about an event I never knew existed.
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for fans of American history and/or non-fiction 'novels.' This tragic chronicle of the April 1947 "Texas City Disaster" is more compelling than the dry title may suggest.
Bruce Thomas
Nov 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Texas City Disaster, very good and complete
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a great story about a long-forgotten moment in US History. It is also, for me a family story. I was surprised to find my great-grandparents' experiences recounted in the book.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hundreds of people were killed when a ship
containing ammonium nitrate caught on fire
and then exploded in Texas City, Texas in 1947.
Randy Jackson
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great read on the Texas City Disaster. Explores the conflict between Business & Community in regards to safety and workers.
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shows that mankind seldom learns from it's mistakes.

They're still blowing up parts of Texas in 2013.
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's amazing how little people knew even as recently as the late 1940s. While this book was a little slow in the beginning, it quickly becomes a compelling non-fiction read.
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