The explosion happened in a five-story coal silo. Photo: Baltimore Firefighters IAFF Local 734/ Facebook

Baltimore Coal Terminal Explosion Shakes Waterfront Neighborhoods

An explosion rocked a coal terminal in Baltimore’s Curtis Bay industrial area—and the entire harbor area felt the effects.

A spokesman for railroad freight corporation CSX, Cindy Schild, says the explosion happened at the CSX Curtis Bay Coal Terminal just after 11:30 a.m. Thursday, in the southernmost part of the city off the Patapsco River.

The Baltimore Firefighters IAFF Local 734 says it happened in a five-story silo at the site on Benhill Ave. and Baltimore Fire’s Hazmat, Special Rescue Units & Fireboats all responded to the scene. Luckily, all the employees are accounted for and there were no injuries.

But the explosion was heard and felt all across the Baltimore waterfront, three to four miles from Curtis Bay (where the boom set off car alarms and even shattered windows) to Canton on the opposite edge of the harbor and out to Middle River. Some people thought it was an earthquake, while others assumed it was the daily ceremonial firing of the USS Constellation‘s cannons.

Baltimore City Fire spokeswoman Blair Adams tells us, “Once units arrived on the scene, we were advised contractors were working to move coal on a conveyer belt when the coal dust explosion occurred.” Coal dust is listed among the combustible dusts that the federal workplace safety agency OSHA—”fine particles that present an explosion hazard when suspended in air under certain conditions.”

Baltimore City Councilwoman Phylicia Porter says, “To our knowledge, the structural damage has been contained and is internal.” The fire department tested for gas and confirmed none was detected at the site, and also requested an on-site air quality test from the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Schild says in a statement, “CSX appreciates the swift response of the Baltimore Fire Department.  The cause of the incident is under investigation.”

-Meg Walburn Viviano