RICHLAND, Wash. – There were no injuries following a fire that occurred in the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) Monday afternoon at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

East, West and BSEL buildings on campus were evacuated, but classes resumed shortly afterward in every building but BSEL. Labs in BSEL are canceled for the day, but students are directed to check the Blackboard website as to whether their lectures are moved or canceled.

The Richland Fire Department received a call of an explosion involving a chemical processing reactor within the facility at 1:46 p.m. A cylinder of compressed gas exploded unexpectedly, sparking the fire. It was doused by the building’s sprinkler system. The gas was nontoxic. Firefighters arrived on scene at 1:55 p.m.

Lieutenant Jim Jordon said upon arrival, they were immediately met with the officials on campus who presented “a good and accurate report of what happened.”

“Kudos to those responsible here on campus,” he said. “They were right on top of it.”

No one was in the laboratory at the time of the incident. It is still unclear as to the cause of the incident.

John Mancinelli, chief of staff and operations at WSU Tri-Cities, said protocols in the case of an emergency were promptly initiated and that emergency response followed safety procedures as planned.

“Everyone responded exactly as they were trained to,” he said. “Emergency response arrived swiftly and everyone was evacuated in a timely manner. We will continue to do our due diligence to ensure a safe and secure facility.”

There will be a thorough investigation and follow up in the coming days.

The BSEL lab and WSU Tri-Cities are non-nuclear facilities


Jeffrey Dennison, director of marketing and communications, Washington State University Tri-Cities, 509- 372-7319, Cell 360-649-2292