Firefighters have remained at BlueScope Steelworks overnight after a fire broke out at the site and left a worker with burns.
Speaking some 21 hours after the fire started, Superintendent Adam Dewberry from Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) said on Wednesday morning that crews remained on scene monitoring the temperatures of gas cylinders and applying water to them to prevent possible explosion.
A male contractor was working on an oxy acetylene gas cylinder at the Port Kembla site when it caught on fire around 10.30am on Tuesday, February 13.
The man, who is aged in his 40s, received burns to his hands and was rushed to Wollongong Hospital. He remains there in a stable condition.
Firefighters said the fire quickly spread to five adjoining oxy acetylene gas cylinders within the building, with staff in the hot mill area ordered to evacuate.
"The cylinders have been generating significant heat, with their exposure to flames posing a risk of an explosion," a FRNSW spokesman said on Tuesday.
Superintendent Dewberry said the gas burnt off overnight, but a substance inside the acetylene cylinders generated heat as it broke down and this posed a risk.
He said FRNSW was working with an expert from BOC Gas on their approach.
In total about 60 firefighters have been at BlueScope to attend to the emergency since it began.
FRNSW drones were also brought to the site to conduct sweeps over the burning cylinders to monitor their temperatures.
On Tuesday, a FRNSW spokesperson said 50 workers at the site were evacuated as a precaution.
By 12.30pm, as the gas fire continue to rage, firefighters were also evacuated from the area.
Firefighters reverted to using monitor hoses which can be set up on the ground, with water directed towards the flames, so they could retreat to a safe distance.
"We're doing defensive firefighting. They're not attacking that fire, they fight it from a safe distance," FRNSW safety officer Paul Dorin said of that strategy.
"FRNSW has deployed more than 40 firefighters and 11 fire trucks, including specialist hazardous materials (HAZMAT) crews, which are working with on-site experts.
A BlueScope spokesman said only two, not six, cylinders caught on fire and that only 25 staff were evacuated.
Also, that paramedics were not initially called to treat the burnt contractor.
"A gas bottle ignited when a contractor turned on the gas bottle to vent it," he said. "He [the contractor] suffered burns to his hands and he's being treated in our medial centre. Paramedics were not called."
Around 30 minutes after the man was burnt, paramedics were called to the site.
"The contractor was taken to hospital for further treatment of superficial burns to the knuckles and a small graze," the BlueScope spokesman said.
Oxy acetylene is often used with oxygen for welding metals and cutting steel.