The evening of September 24, 1904 was windy, and the smelter’s open building provided some relief from the heat of the furnace. Around 9pm, as part of their routine, workers wet-down the furnace and began to remove, or “undrape” the liquid slag. This time however, there was too much of the by-product and the slag poured out of the furnace too quickly for the men to control it.
“It spread over the floor, in front of the smelter,” the Weekly Journal-Miner explained, “and the molten slag, coming in contact with the water, caused [an] explosion, sending the hot metal all through the building; setting it on fire in a number of places.” While there was an abundance of water on hand, it was impossible to check the progress of the blaze as the strong winds fanned the flames.
Not only was the building doomed, but so was the five year-old town of Val Verde.