Crime

Chemical fire erupts in WWU building

Bellingham firefighters enter Morse Hall, the chemistry building on the campus of Western Washington University, to handle a chemical fire on the third floor Tuesday, Aug. 25, in Bellingham.
Bellingham firefighters enter Morse Hall, the chemistry building on the campus of Western Washington University, to handle a chemical fire on the third floor Tuesday, Aug. 25, in Bellingham. The Bellingham Herald

A chemical fire erupted in a Western Washington University chemistry building on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 25.

No one was injured, and the building was evacuated right after the fire broke out about 5:15 p.m., said WWU spokesman Paul Cocke.

Student Melany Fry was in room 370 of Morse Hall with six other students when the fire broke out.

“We heard a big bang and a whoosh,” Fry said.

Fry said the fire started by a dry-solvent pump, which keeps water out of solvents. She didn’t think anybody was working with that pump at the time.

The flames were initially about 15 feet high, Fry said. All of the students got out quickly while somebody else tried putting the fire out with an extinguisher.

Firefighters responded and saw a plume coming from the building. They set up a perimeter far from the building to keep everyone away as they tried to determine what chemicals were involved.

The building’s sprinklers put out the fire. Firefighters broke out windows to ventilate the building, and conducted a search for anyone who might still be inside, though the building had been cleared. They later ordered an evacuation of the nearby biology building.

A hazardous materials team was brought in to examine the lab and ensure the scene was safe.

Jared Chang, another WWU student who was in the building at the time, described the chemicals the students were working with as “a bunch of nasty, organic solvents that you don’t want on fire.”

What caused the fire was under investigation Tuesday evening. No immediate damage estimate was available. The damage was not only from the fire but from the water from the sprinkler system.

This story will be updated as soon as more information is available.

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