It appears water coming into contact with hot molten steel is what caused an explosion at Youngstown’s Vallourec Star that rocked neighbors for miles around.
The incident happened about 8:35 p.m. Wednesday inside the melt shop.
Viewers reported that the explosion was so powerful it was felt in the surrounding neighborhood.
Battalion Chief Silverio Caggiano said firefighters at Station 3 on the west side felt the roof shake just before they got the call from Vallourec.
When firefighters arrived, they discovered that the side of furnace blew out, spilling hot metal on the floor.
“It was kind of like staring into a volcano,” Caggiano said.
Crews did not hit the fire with water for fear of causing more problems with the immense steam that would be created, Caggiano said. The fire burned out but the metal remained dangerously hot.
“It was a sizable blowout. It’s amazing no one was hurt,” he said.
Caggiano said the metal would have to cool before any repairs could be made, and that process could take about three days.
Vallourec released the following statement about the incident on Thursday:
A furnace failure occurred at Vallourec Star’s EAF (electric arc furnace) within the steel plant in Youngstown, Ohio Wednesday at approximately 8:30 pm. No injuries occurred during the event and subsequent orderly shutdown and evacuation. The fire department and EMT services were alerted and came on-site as a precaution ready to provide any needed support.
A steam disturbance resulted from hot steel coming in contact with water when the EAF shell was breached during the tapping process.
Damage assessment and recovery actions are underway. There are currently no risks to delivering customer orders on time.
Steelmaking operations were already scheduled to be shut down in observance of the Easter holiday.