PULLMAN, Wash. - Fire ripped through four buildings at “The Grove” apartment project early Sunday morning in Pullman. The apartment complex was set to house hundreds of Washington State University students for the fall semester.
"These were supposed to be like the dream apartments at Pullman,” said WSU student Alexis LoCicero, who is now worried about where she will live when school starts. “Everyone was talking about them. They were so excited."
Firefighters responded to flames at the construction site just off NE Terre View Drive around 3 a.m. Crews were able to save four buildings but the fire destroyed four others. No one was injured.
First responders said the fire started in the middle of the complex and spread to three other units that were under construction. Those on the scene heard at least three explosions as the fire reached the gas, diesel or propane tanks on the construction equipment.
The fire was so hot, authorities say it cracked windows at a research park about 200 yards away and melted a street sign across the street.
Fire crews were able to get the fire under control about two hours after the fire broke out. Firefighters remained on the scene for several hours cleaning up and carrying out an investigation.
Two nearby apartment complexes, Boulder Creek and Steptoe, suffered heat damage to the siding but all units are still usable. Several cars were also damaged by the heat.
There was also fear that the fire would spread to a wheat field about 400 yards away. Firefighters say the weather helped them keep the blaze contained.
“The Grove” apartments were set to open in August to offer housing to WSU students. 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 that begins August 19.
"So now we're all just scared if we're going to have somewhere to live, what's going to happen, do we need to find a new place to live or what,” LoCicero said.
There was no dollar estimate yet on the amount of damage to the complex.
Fire chief Mike Heston called the fire “suspicious” and immediately assigned several investigators from Pullman Fire, Pullman Police, and WSU Police to begin an investigation.