INDIANA - No One Injured in Blaze Blamed on Molten Metal Hitting Hydraulic Lines : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: Quick mill rebound expected after fire

No one is injured in blaze blamed on molten metal hitting hydraulic lines.

By Bruce C. Smith - The Indianapolis Star

Last updated 08:54 PM, EST, Wednesday, March 29, 2000

PITTSBORO, Ind. -- Cleanup crews worked in the Qualitech steel mill late Wednesday, clearing away debris and assessing the damage from a serious fire.

Company officials and Fire Department spokesmen reported no injuries from the blaze, and all 300 employees and firefighters were accounted for.

The production of new steel will be interrupted until the damage can be repaired. However, workers in the mill will be able to finish and ship some steel from existing stockpiles, and company officials said the company will recover quickly.

Jerry Johnson of the Pittsboro Fire Department said the fire began with molten metal that spilled out of the main ladle. Scrap is melted in the ladle, reformed and eventually rolled into new bars.

The spilled metal damaged hydraulic fluid lines, which fueled the fire. The fire was reported shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday in the northern end of the mill.

In that three-story section of the $250 million facility, temperatures reach more than 2,000 degrees in the steel-making process around the electric-powered furnace and casting equipment.

Brad Grider, Qualitech's personnel director, said the fire was in the casting area near wiring and pipes filled with hydraulic fluid. Tarps caught fire and contributed to the smoke.

Black smoke marked the three-story area that includes the ladle and casting equipment, which is visible through the open doors of the mill.

The Pittsboro, Union Township and Brownsburg fire departments responded and had most of the flames out within minutes.

Firefighters said the fire re-ignited briefly about 10:25, apparently from another broken hydraulic line.

In a fire in the same area of the mill more than a year ago, temperatures rose out of control in the main electric furnace. Part of the equipment melted.

Over the past five years, Qualitech has been resilient to setbacks.

Plans to build the mill at Brownsburg were announced in November 1995, triggering a controversy that consumed the town.

Another site was found on 125 acres at the I-74 interchange on the northside of Pittsboro, and the plant was built with a mix of private financing and economic incentives from Hendricks County.

Qualitech was overcoming the first fire, trying to find customers and increase steel production when financial troubles hit early in 1999. The sale price of steel plummeted because of an influx of cheap foreign steel.

On March 22, 1999, Qualitech Steel Corp. filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, more than $100 million in debt.

A federal judge eventually awarded ownership of the facilities to bankers and other senior creditors.

The company is now named Qualitech Steel SBQ LLC.

"We have a new CEO and a management team. We have picked up some new customers. We are adding a fourth shift in the rolling mill," Grider said. "Things have been looking up and this will be a minor setback." ) 2000 Indiana Newspapers Inc.


-- (, March 30, 2000

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