Massive Baltimore Coal Silo Explosion Causes Citywide ‘Shockwave’

by Liz Holland

A huge explosion in Curtis Bay sent shockwaves throughout Baltimore on Thursday (12/30). The blast occurred at the CSX Cole Plant building when a five-story coal silo exploded. Fire department spokeswoman Blair Adams reported there were no contractors inside the building at the time of the explosion. She also confirmed the cause was from transporting coal. The facility sends coal through a conveyor belt, and she reports that the dust buildup eventually caused the explosion. 

However, one city councilman also reported the noise from the explosion was due to a propane tank exploding. Councilman Eric Costello tweeted around 11:35 am local time, “The loud noise from around 11:35 a.m. was a propane tank explosion at the CSX Coal Pier in Curtis Bay. OEM, BPD, BCFD, and CSX are all on scene. The explosion is isolated to the CSX property, no impact or risk to community, no reported injuries, and cause is unknown at this time.”

Shockwaves Felt Throughout the City of Baltimore

One news source reported firefighters believe there was a CSX train moving through a tunnel when the explosion happened. Police and firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after the blow. The fire department kept watch over the building for signs of collapse.

Although officials were called to the scene in South Baltimore’s industrial district, shocks from the explosion were felt miles away. Thankfully, Baltimore City Councilwoman Phylicia Porter says no injuries have been reported yet. Porter also said on Twitter, “We are aware of the explosion that took place today at the CSX Coal Plant Building in Curtis Bay. Our office is working with Mayor [Brandon] Scott to address this as swiftly and safely as possible.”

“We Just Tried to Brace Ourselves” Says Resident Justin Helms

One Baltimore resident, Justin Helms, was out walking his dogs with his wife when the explosion rattled their block. Initially, Helms feared there was a bombing. He describes the way puddles of water shook “like the T-Rex scene from Jurassic Park” from the force of the blow. Although Helm’s home was safe and sound, he says several of his neighbors lost windows of theirs. “We just tried to brace ourselves looking around to see what happened while windows were busting out of houses,” he explains.

 Helms lives near the facility and actually worked closely with them at one point. Helms previously worked under a contractor that cleaned the silos and the facility. According to Helms, employees were warned multiple times about the explosive nature of the materials inside. Keeping this in mind, Helms was initially concerned about any employees that may have been inside the facilities’ tunnels at the time of the explosion. ”I would hope, because they have monitoring things, that they knew something was liable to happen, but you know there’s always errors,” he says.

Thankfully, Cindy Schild, Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs at CSX can ease some of those worries. “All employees are accounted for and there were no injuries as a result of this incident. CSX appreciates the swift response of the Baltimore Fire Department. The cause of the incident is under investigation,” she said in a statement.