Burning hydrogen tank capped at WaferTech in Camas

By Craig Brown, Columbian Managing Editor and Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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Flames erupting from a tank containing hydrogen, a highly explosive gas, caused some tense moments in Camas on Saturday afternoon.

The fire was reported at 1:48 p.m. at WaferTech, 5509 N.W. Parker St., near the western edge of Camas. Firefighters from Camas-Washougal and Vancouver responded to the fire, alongside a hazmat team from Linde Inc., the industrial gas supplier that owns the tank.

Crews reportedly arrived and sprayed the nearly 3,000-gallon tank with large-diameter jets of water in order to keep the tank cool. The tank vented, releasing what fire officials called a “large cloud of hydrogen vapor.” The venting gas was not ignited.

With the tank vented and depressurized, crews were then able to cap the tank at approximately 2:45 p.m.

The cause of the fire is not yet known. Nobody was reported injured. WaferTech spokesperson Christa Hammack said fewer than 20 employees in nearby buildings were evacuated.

WaferTech, a maker of custom integrated circuits, uses hydrogen in its manufacturing process. Several large tanks are visible from the northern part of the WaferTech property along Northwest Lake Road. Hammack said its possible the incident could set back production slightly.

The Camas-based company is a subsidiary of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and employs about 1,000 people.

Northwest Lake Road was temporarily closed during the incident, between Parker Road and Northwest Friberg-Strunk Street, near Union High School, said Officer Debrah Riedel of the Camas Police Department.