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Mar 29, 2013 10:05 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

Supreme Cleaners Explosion: Tucson firefighter looks back 50 years later

TUCSON- Today marks 50 years since the Supreme Cleaners Explosion at Stone Ave. and Grant Rd.

The blast killed seven and injured more than 30 others. At the time it was considered the deadliest fire/explosion in Tucson's history.

Retired firefighter Bud Wray says the call is still fresh in his mind. "We headed north on 6th Ave. and you could see a big cloud of black smoke," Wray says.

Wray had only been a Tucson firefighter for a few years. A rookie, heading into a deadly heat. "The first thing we heard was someone screaming," Wray says.

That someone turned out to be the president of Supreme Cleaners, Harris Salonic. "His head was wide open, we jumped down to where he was at and tried to calm him down as much as possible," Wray says.

Salonic died a few days later. Firefighters determined the blast was the result of two gas explosions. "The whole building exploded," Wray says. "It came up and then came down."

Today there is an automotive shop where the cleaners used to be. Every once in a while Wray likes to drive by. "I look over this way and remember what happened, but you try to forget as much as possible," Wray says.

Of course he will never forget what happened. He learned a lesson he carried with him until he retired in 1980. "You learn real fast you can't let certain incidents bother you," Wray says. "You just get in and do your job to the best of your ability."

And 50 years later, Wray is proud of the job he and his fellow firefighters did that day.

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