Fire destroys Pullman apartments under construction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              Andrew Howell, Incident Commander
Sunday, July 14, 2013                                    Mike Heston, Fire Chief
By Glenn A. Johnson, Pullman Fire Department public information officer

Apartament complex fire near Washington State University july 2013

 Image courtesy Holly Bradley, WSU student

PULLMAN, Wash. – A raging three-alarm fire, that Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston is calling “suspicious,” ripped through four apartment buildings under construction in the north area of Pullman early Sunday morning, July 15.

Flames could be seen throughout the Pullman area as the fire spread from one building under construction to the next in a complex called The Grove, at 1560 NE Brandi Way, just off Terre View Drive.

Firefighters managed to protect another four units under construction from any major fire damage. Two nearby apartment complexes, that were occupied — Boulder Creek and Steptoe — sustained heat damage to the vinyl siding but all the units could be used.

Heston assigned several investigators from Pullman Fire, Pullman Police and WSU Police to begin the investigation. 

The first call to Whitcom, the 9-1-1 center, came in by phone at 3:16 a.m. As fire units left the north area station, they could see the flames and immediately called for a second alarm and third alarms for additional help. Pullman firefighters were aided by Whitman Rural District 12, Moscow Rural and City fire departments and the Colfax fire department.

As firefighters first approached the fire scene, just off Terre View Drive, set up equipment in defensive mode to protect occupied apartment buildings to the east and south of the structure. They also managed to save four additional apartment buildings under construction in The Grove from any major fire damage.

Firefighters had the fire under control about two hours later (5:20 am) but will have firefighters on the scene for several hours mopping up and aiding with the fire investigation.

The apartment complex is under construction by a North Carolina firm. They told firefighters that all of the units had been rented for the fall semester at Washington State University that begins Aug 19.

Heston said firefighters were told at least two fire hydrants on the property supposedly were operational but when firefighters tried to use them, there was no water available. Firefighters laid hose line from hydrants on Terre View and nearby complexes to help extinguish the fire.

The first firefighters on the scene said the fire apparently started in the middle

complex and spread to three other units that were in various stages of construction. 

The fire was so hot at its height that it cracked a couple of windows at a nearby research park, roughly 200 yards away, and melted a street sign across the street.

When the fire broke out, both WSU and Pullman police officers went to nearby apartment complexes that were occupied — Boulder Creek and Steptoe — and helped with evacuations. There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

Firefighters were aided by the weather in the early Sunday morning hours. There was very little wind when the fire was at its height which helped firefighters keep blaze contained. In addition to nearby occupied apartment complexes, about 400 yards away was a standing wheat field.  

Whitman Rural District 12 had one of its trucks in position in case a spark would drift northward towards the wheat field. 

Construction crews told firefighters that Aug. 17 was the move in date for the new Grove apartment complex.  In addition to the apartment units under construction several pieces of equipment, including a front loader, bulldozers, and a backhoe, were damaged by the heat and fire. Several vehicles parked near the rear of the main complex were also damaged by the heat.    

Those on the scene could hear at least three explosions as the fire reached the gas, diesel or propane tanks on the construction equipment.

At this time there is no dollar figure on the amount of damage to the complex as construction crews were working their way through the units attempting to get an estimate of the damage.

(Glenn A. Johnson, Pullman Fire Department public information officer, 509 432-6894)