Wednesday marks 50th anniversary of deadly Mickelberry plant fire

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of one of Chicago's deadliest explosions.

In all, nine people died in the tragedy at the plant located near Halsted and 49th Place.

Four firefighters from responding Firehouse Engine 50 were among the dead, including firefighter Edward Leifker. Leifker wasn't scheduled to work that day, but did because he was trying to make extra money to take his wife and six kids to Disney World.

"He always brought the family together. We always had the family parties, he was the leader of the family," said Edward Leifker son Ken.

The fire began at the plant after gasoline spilled into the basement of the factory after a pipe was sheared off of a fuel delivery truck was ignited by the building's boiler.

Arthur Murray was one of the more than other 70 people were injured in the massive blast and three subsequent explosions and survived.

"They were standing 12 feet in back of me. I went with the blast and unfortunately, the other folks, the building blew out from under them. They fell straight down into the rubble," said Arthur Murray, who survived the fire.

The countless acts of valor and courage that happened that day were honored as those lost were remembered with a memorial marking their sacrifices.

The owner of the factory also died. He managed to get out the first time and went back into the burning building to try to save a disabled employee. Neither one survived.
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