Were fire hydrants working at Sparrows Point?

Inoperative hydrants hindered Baltimore County firefighters, sources say.

Tin Mill Fire for drip

Photo sent to The Brew of the fire at the Sparrows Point steel plant.

Photo by: Anonymous

((UPDATE: Baltimore County Fire Department confirms hydrants weren’t working.))

Non-working fire hydrants impeded efforts to fight the intense, smoky blaze that broke out at the Sparrows Point steel mill Friday, three sources told The Brew.

“They were filled with air, not water,” one eyewitness said of the hydrants located inside and around the tin mill, where the fire started around 11 a.m.

Eventually, water trucks from the company and a contractor were used to supplement the water carried by each of the responding Baltimore County fire trucks, this source said.

There were no reported injuries, but the fire caused extensive damage to the No. 1 tandem mill, a large piece of equipment that helps process steel into stock for tin cans.

When the fire broke out, attempts by employees to contain the blaze with a fire extinguisher and tap water running from a garden hose failed.

The county fire department responded to a 12:04 p.m. call from the mill and had the fire under control by 1:50 p.m., fire department spokesperson Elise Armacost said Friday.

According to sources, there was considerable confusion when the firefighters arrived because of the absence of working hydrants. “One of the firefighters was being driven around on a golf cart trying to locate a functional hydrant,” a person writing on The Brew’s comments page said Saturday. (See other comments.)

Bette Kovach, spokesperson for RG Steel, who purchased Sparrows Point from Severstal last March, has not yet responded to an e-mail asking about the condition of the hydrants.

Armacost said this morning that she did not know if the hydrants at the tin mill were working and would check with the incident commander. She confirmed that the hydrants are owned and maintained by the steel company.

Sources said the fire started while a burner crew was repairing a “flipper table” near the oiler nozzles of the No. 1 tandem stand. Hot metal, as well as sparks from the acetylene torch, apparently fell into a basement oil pit and ignited. The fire quickly spread from the basement and soon reached the roof.

Full frame of the photo taken of the fire Friday.

Full frame of the photo taken of the fire Friday.

Some workers expressed anger that fingers are being pointed at the burner crew for causing the fire, when poor housekeeping was the root cause of the blaze.

“The crew doing the burning job had all required authorizations and hot work permits, and had the required number of people on the job site,” said a commenter.

The fire has halted tinplate production at the mill. The company hasn’t said how long it might take to resume operations.

Kovach said Friday that “efforts are being taken to minimize any impact to our customers.”

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  • elivator

    Managment at the mill is incompetent to say the least. fortuantely for them they have te power to find a scapegoat. Hopefully RG upper management will see through the smoke screen and find some compentent managers to operate this valuable and profitable mill…….

  • elivator

    Managment at the mill is incompetent to say the least. fortuantely for them they have te power to find a scapegoat. Hopefully RG upper management will see through the smoke screen and find some compentent managers to operate this valuable and profitable mill…….

  • OutWithTheIncumbents

    wonder if they will spend more time trying to find who took the picture to fire them or to get the hydrants working?

  • Lilbrona682

    Wow did the fire damage the feeder recorder booth also?

  • Iamironman1998

    dearborn can run their orders at the new mill.

  • steelman

    u voted for the contract now live with the results management and all do not worry warren is making $$$$$$ so they will take it as usally and and keep feeding it to u loosers

    • Wci8757

      george said up at sparrow there crushing the competition.

    • guest

      when your pricing on raw material goes up in 2012 your mouth will not be saying this crap. you will be shut down.

      • Walter

        Mr. Ira knows how to buy the best raw materials at bargain basement prices. If the price of raw materials goes up this is very good news for RG because our competitors will need to pay more and they will be at a price disadvantage while we will have a handle on the price differential!

        Sorry Guest – RG outgunned you again!  Sparrows Point will never shut down again, heck Maryland Pig is making L- Furnace Pig Iron as we speak – record levels of Pig all day and all night never stopping or slowing output!  Looks like we will continue a very happy holiday season here in Sparrows Point.


        • Wci8757

          walter, did uss pay two dollars an hour profit sharing last quarter with a two dollar an hour labor cost disadvantage while R&G paid nothing. looks like you are the one that got outgunned again.

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