An explosion in the melt shop at the Baltimore Specialty Steel Corp. plant in East Baltimore blew out windows of an office, started several fires in the building and rattled homes throughout a wide area.
City fire investigators and officials today were continuing their probe into last night's explosion at the plant in the 3500 block of E. Biddle St.
No injuries were reported. A damage estimate was being prepared by company officials.
Several fires, caused by molten metal striking wooden walls and other flammable objects, were under control in less than 20 minutes.
Numerous residents of the neighborhood called the fire and police departments. Eastern District police were heard reporting a series of explosions coming from the vicinity of the plant about 10:50 p.m. The district station is about six blocks from the plant.
Fire Battalion Chief Frank Snyder said molten metal being poured from a large metal bucket apparently came into contact with water, creating steam and setting off the explosions that rocked the huge plant and shook surrounding houses.
Snyder said the molten metal flying about set ceiling insulation and the interior of an office on fire.
"If anyone had been in that office," Snyder said, "they would have been hurt real bad."
He said several pieces of fire equipment were dispatched but that most of the fires either burned themselves out or were put out by plant personnel using fire extinguishers.
People lined Edison Highway on west side of the plant, known for years as Armco Steel, to try to find out what had happened.
Thomas Jones, 46, of the 2900 block of E. Madison St., said he was preparing for bed and was watching television when he heard an explosion.
"I thought the noise was coming from a carnival at Bocek Park," Jones said, "until three more explosion occurred within a few seconds of the first one."
Jones said the explosions rocked his daughter's water bed, causing it to "roll" for a few minutes.
Jones said he looked out the window toward the plant but did not see any fire or smoke.
Elizabeth Blackwell, 52, of the 500 block of N. Collington Ave., said she heard the explosions and saw a flash of light coming from the plant, where her husband, Merle, 50, works in the pipe shop.
Blackwell and her son, Merle Jr., 25, drove to the plant to find out if any injuries occurred.
"When we got there," she said, "my husband was in the office at the front gate answering phone calls."
She said he had just reported for duty and hadn't gotten to the pipe shop when the first of the explosions occurred.
After reassuring his wife and son that he was all right, Blackwell went into the plant to help with the clean-up.
Capt. William R. Roberts, head of security, said plant personnel acted quickly in putting out the spot fires and notifying firefighters.
Roberts said company officials would release a statement today explaining what happened.
Several months ago, two women were slightly injured in a similar incident at the plant when a large metal pot exploded, sending metal chunks flying in all directions.