Furnace explodes at plant in East Baltimore no one injured, damage slight

July 15, 1991

A furnace used to melt steel blew up at an East Baltimore plant last night, shaking the surrounding neighborhood but sparking only several small blazes that firefighters were able to extinguish within 10 minutes of arriving.

No one was injured at the Armco Specialty Steel plant in the 3500 block of East Biddle Street, but the blast brought many East Baltimore residents out of their homes and drew concerned relatives of workers to the company's front gates.

"We did see a flash," said Merle Blackwell Jr., 25, whose father is a maintenance man at the plant. They live about 1 1/2 miles west of Armco, near Johns Hopkins Hospital. "We heard a real distant rumble, like thunder, off in the distance," Mr. Blackwell said.

Battalion Chief Frank Snyder said the 10:40 p.m. explosion sparked several small fires in the building, which contains three other giant furnaces. He said that the roof of the building was intact, but all the windows had been blown out.

"It rocked everything," the chief said. "It shook all around the neighborhood." While the cause of the explosion was still under investigation this morning, Chief Snyder said plant officials believed water got into the furnace, causing a steam explosion. He said no workers were in the building.

Tom Jones, who lives in the 2900 block of East Madison Street, west of the plant, said his house was "actually vibrating. Then there were three additional blasts within seconds."

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