May 30, 2012
At 10:32 am, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters were dispatched to a hazardous materials incident at West Farm Foods, also known as Darigold, which processes milk products and is located at 2720 SE 6th Avenue.
Firefighters from Portland Fire Station 21 (Eastbank Hawthorne) arrived first on-scene and were notified that incompatible chemicals had mixed in a tank, sickening plant workers. They immediately began treating two patients and called for Portland Fire’s HazMat Team to respond. Upon arrival, the Incident Commander quickly elevated the emergency to a Mass Casualty Incident due to its complexity and increasing number of patients affected.
Firefighters in hazardous materials suits entered the building and evacuated plant workers. At 11:30 am, all 35 West Farm Foods personnel were accounted for. In total, 11 patients were treated and transported to area hospitals after being decontaminated and placed in Tyvek suits. All patients reported suffering from upper respiratory symptoms and breathing distress. Their conditions are unknown at this time.
Later, the HazMat team re-entered the building to take temperature readings which would help determine the next course of action. Supervisors from West Farm Foods assisted Hazmat firefighters with this process.
It was determined that there was 1,150 gallons of caustic liquid in a tank, when 450 gallons of acid was accidentally offloaded from a truck into the tank. The tank began heating up as the chemical reaction occurred and the temperature has been consistently hovering around 120 degrees. HazMat technicians are concerned that if the temperature reaches 150 degrees, the product will melt the tank and leak onto the ground. Firefighters are working with a contractor to pump out the liquid, ventilate the building, and monitor conditions.