Chesterton Tribune



CFD: Furnace fire forces evacuation of Urschel on Friday

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A fire in a furnace crucible at the Urschel Laboratories foundry forced the evacuation of the entire facility on Friday afternoon, the Chesterton Fire Department said.

No one was injured in the incident, a fact which CFD Capt. Tony Coslet attributed to fast-thinking on the part of foundry employees.

The fire started around 12:45 p.m., as employees were adding stainless steel to the crucible, which Coslet described as a gas-fired furnace approximately waist-high. Normally the 3,000-degree molten stainless would then be poured into ingot molds for subsequent tooling but an unknown “malfunction” occurred, causing 10-foot flames to “shoot out of the top of the crucible,” Coslet told the Chesterton Tribune today.

On firefighters’ arrival--the foundry is located at the southeast corner of the plant, just west of 200E--the flames had receded somewhat but the crucible’s internal cooling system had been damaged in the flare-up. The CFD’s challenge: to reduce the crucible’s temperature before it went into melt-down and to do that without using water, which reacts explosively with molten metal.

“A melt-down would’ve been bad,” Coslet said. “There would have been molten metal everywhere and if there was any water on the ground there’d have been the risk of explosion. It was kind of a hairy situation for a little bit until we could get the crucible cooled down.”

The CFD managed to do so by using sand, on the advice of the Urschel foundry employees, with whose help firefighters poured around 10 gallons of the stuff into the crucible. “It was their idea,” Coslet said. “Sand absorbed the heat and brought the temperature down. The employees did a great job of getting the situation under control, getting the gas shut off to the crucible, and providing us with the technical information we needed to mitigate the problem. We don’t have foundry fires every day.”

The cause of the flare-up remains unknown, Coslet said. “The foundry supervisor said he’s been doing this for 25 years and has never seen this happen before.”

Coslet added that, from what he’s been told, damage to the crucible was “pretty minimal.” It will have to be re-lined but Urschel “has others so production shouldn’t be affected.”

The CFD cleared the scene at 2:15 p.m.



Posted 11/21/2016




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