At 9:35 a.m. on June 25, 1985, a series of explosions and subsequent fires occurred at the site of the Aerlex Fireworks Manufacturing Corporation, near the town of Jennings, Oklahoma. In all, 21 people were killed and 5 injured in what was the second-deadliest fireworks factory explosion in the United States reported to the NFPA between 1950 and 1986.
The company was federally licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and produced approximately 90% display-type special fireworks and 10% common fireworks. As a result of increased demand created by the upcoming July 4th holiday, the plant had temporarily increased its staff and extended the hours of operation.
As determined by the Oklahoma Stated Fire Marshal's Office, the incident was most likely the result of careless unloading of pyrotechnic materials from a pickup truck to an adjacent assembly building. Investigators estimate that it was only a matter of seconds from the initial ignition before the explosions, which were felt 13 miles away, leveled most of the facility. Factors such as unbarricaded process buildings coupled with the quantity and type of explosive composition on hand are believed to be responsible for the magnitude of the loss.