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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pasco’s OXARC reopens after explosion and fire shut down the business, closed roads

A Portland OXARC truck carries carbon dioxide refrigerated liquid. An explosion at a Pasco OXARC shop triggered a fire that took hours to put out Tuesday.  (Courtesy of OXARC)
By Cameron Probert Tri-City Herald

PASCO – Pasco’s OXARC shop is open again less than a day after an explosion and fire triggered hours of firefighting.

The Spokane-based company announced they had reopened just before 9 a.m. on Wednesday on Facebook. It remains unclear how much of an impact the Tuesday afternoon fire had on the business.

Firefighters were called shortly before 10:20 a.m. for an explosion in a metal building where acetylene is manufactured. The production building contained only acetylene containers and the machine that makes it.

Acetylene is a flammable gas used in welding and doesn’t produce much smoke when it burns. It’s kept in canisters under pressure, and it can explode when exposed to high heat.

It’s not clear what sparked the fire.

One employee was working in the area when the explosion happened but was able to escape unharmed.

OXARC employees were evaluated by Pasco medics at the scene and one employee was taken to a local medical center to be checked further, Pasco Fire Public Information Officer Ben Shearer said.

Much of the time battling the blaze was spent planning an approach to extinguish several burning containers of acetylene but not put fire crews at risk.

“The fire was complicated from the aspect that OXARC is a large supplier of many different gas products, some that do not care if they get wet and some react violently if they get wet,” Shearer said in a news release.

They worked with OXARC employees to determine where the acetylene was being stored and to make sure the machinery that produced it was shut off.

Firefighters on the scene focused on making sure the heat and fire didn’t spread to other buildings.

“Once we knew what we were dealing with, everything went very quickly and efficiently,” Shearer said.

Shearer didn’t know how extensive the damage was to the building, but the business was shut down for most of the day Tuesday.

OXARC provides welding and industrial supplies and safety products and training from its 21 locations across the Northwest.

While there were some initial concerns about the smoke and acetylene in the air moving through East Pasco, Shearer said the gas had dissipated quickly. He said they are not aware of any public health issues.

There also weren’t any chemical spills. Shearer said firefighters prevented water from going into the storm drains.

The firefighters were able to extinguish the fire by 3 p.m. and turned the building back over to OXARC for them to examine the damage.

Oregon Avenue was shut down between East A Street and East Lewis Street during the fire. It also sparked a brief lockdown at some nearby schools as a precaution.

The warm temperatures meant firefighters were being rotated in and out at the scene in order to rest in a cooling area.

In all, 34 fire units helped at the fire, including crews from Pasco, Richland, Kennewick, Franklin County Fire District 3, Walla Walla Fire District 5, Benton County Fire districts 1 and 4, West Benton Fire Rescue and from police and utility crews from Pasco and Franklin Emergency Management.