History Lesson: The Chelsea Warehouse Fire of 1978

Chelsea Fire 1978 In May of 1978, only five years after a devastating fire destroyed hundreds of Chelsea businesses, a blazing two-alarm fire threatened the very existence of Chelsea Clock. Since the Depression, the lot behind our original Everett Street factory had been brimming with old auto salvage -- junk parts in heaping quantities. Over the years as vehicles decayed there, highly flammable fluids like anti-freeze, gasoline, and battery acid had been making their way into the grounds and the air surrounding the factory. On the morning of Tuesday May 2, 1978, a chemical fire years in the making arose out of the wreckage.

Once the fire was underway, it immediately spread to a shed where the salvage company was storing lacquer thinner and isopropyl alcohol. Within seconds three explosions erupted, and with them Chelsea Clock's storage building went up in flames.

When a second alarm sounded minutes later, fire trucks from Boston, Everett, Revere, and Winthrop all rushed to the scene. High winds were fanning the flames, and within minutes of the explosions, employee vehicles and Chelsea Clock's warehouse were nothing but rubble and ash. Longtime employee John McCarthy, who has been with us since 1956, saved the factory by activating a WWII-era sprinkler system, sending a wall of water cascading down the rear brick walls, separating them from heat and flame. Thanks to McCarthy and the heroic efforts of the many fire departments, when the flames were eventually tamed, the building stood.