Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

Water + molten steel = Massive steam explosion

When it comes to facilities handling molten steel and similar substances, firefighters must understand the implications of adding water during any fire suppression activities.

While the event described here was not directly related to an emergency response, this is an excellent example of what can result when water comes in contact with a high-temperature, high-density substance — which in turn, flash boils the water into a massive steam cloud. The expansion of the water into steam rapidly fills an area and can cause an explosion if contained within a compartment.

This is also why you will almost never see automatic sprinkler systems or other water-based suppression installed in facilities handling molten steel.

If you have facilities of this type in your area, be sure you are familiar with their emergency response plan and coordinate any response with their in-house safety personnel.

Be sure to stop in and see us regularly at Not Just Another Fire

...also, on Facebook and follow on Twitter at: @NotJstAnthrFire

Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media


ATI steam explosion in Harrison rocked homes in four counties

No one was injured in an explosion Tuesday night near ATI Flat Rolled Products in Harrison that rattled homes miles away.

The explosion, along Karns Road just after 11 p.m., was caused by molten scrap metal hitting water at a work area outside of ATI’s plant, commonly known as ATI-Allegheny Ludlum, according to Harrison police and Dan Greenfield, an ATI spokesman.

The explosion was heard and felt widely.

“My house shook,” said Sande Shotts of Vandergrift, who is roughly 8 miles as the crow flies from the explosion.

ATI is investigating the explosion and damages, if any, according to Greenfield.

The explosion occurred at a work site along Karns Road where an ATI contractor was cleaning a slag pot that came out of the melt shop where the company melts scrap metal.

“Some of the molten metal came in contact with water and that caused the explosion,” Greenfield said.

Even a relatively small amount of molten steel hitting water will produce a lot of steam fast, according to Charles Jones, a lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Geology and Planetary Science.

Given the melting point of stainless steel is from 2,600 to 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit, Jones said, that mixed with water, “it will produce a rapid increase in the volume of steam and produce an explosion.”

Brian Balta, a visiting professor at Pitt’s Department of Geology and Planetary Science, added: “Given that the metal was torn during the explosion, that would have made the explosion intensely felt.”

Greenfield said that the specifics of the explosion are under investigation.

“We want to make sure that what happened never occurs again,” he said.

via ATI steam explosion in Harrison rocked homes in four counties | Tri....

Views: 251


You need to be a member of Fire Engineering Training Community to add comments!

Join Fire Engineering Training Community

Policy Page


The login above DOES NOT provide access to Fire Engineering magazine archives. Please go here for our archives.


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our community policy page.  

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of

© 2023   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service