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Titanium fire at RTI Alloys under control

Keywords: Tags  RTI International, RTI Alloys, titanium, fire, ferrotitanium, frank haflich

LOS ANGELES — A titanium fire at a unit of RTI International Metals Inc. appears to be under control after breaking out late Tuesday, a fire department official said.

John Whitlatch, division chief at the Akron (Ohio) Fire Department, told AMM that a fire broke out in a hopper March 5 at RTI Alloys in Canton, Ohio, and "smoldered through the night." It became so hot that it leaked onto the plant floor from the hopper where it was burning, he said, creating a "more complex" situation than if it had remained in its container.

The fire department responded to RTI’s call around 8 a.m. March 6 and stood by for an estimated six to eight hours until the fire’s temperature started to fall.

The impact on operations at RTI Alloys was not immediately clear as an RTI spokesman did not return calls for comment.

The Pittsburgh-based company produces ferrotitanium at RTI Alloys. It’s also the site of RTI’s new plasma-arc furnace that’s part of the firm’s drive to make inroads into the aircraft engine market in contrast to airframe work, which accounts for the bulk of its titanium business. RTI’s main mill products operation is in Niles, Ohio.

The company’s preliminary estimate of the damage was $30,000, said Whitlatch, noting that this was just a "ballpark figure" and that the actual damage probably wouldn’t be tallied until the fire cools, which could take a number of days.

He noted that a fire of this type would normally result in the hopper being taken outside the plant until its temperature drops, but this wasn’t feasible at Canton since it had escaped its container.

Titanium fires can’t be extinguished with water, Whitlatch pointed out, and RTI employees acted to douse it with a salt solution. RTI called in the fire department for assistance in case some type of "catastrophic" situation developed, he said, calling the company’s response "professional."

"It really wasn’t an extremely hazardous situation," he said, although it’s nevertheless a concern whenever a fire breaks out inside a building.

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