Fire Investigators Work to Determine Cause of Grove Apartment Fire

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Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 14:24

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 Rich Dragoo, Fire prevention
Monday, July 15, 2013                                      Mike Heston, Fire Chief

Grove Fire release #2

If completed, destroyed buildings estimated value close to $13 million
Arson dog arrives Tuesday to help with investigation

PULLMAN—Pullman Fire prevention officer Rich Dragoo, the lead investigator on the Grove apartment complex fire, said an arson dog from the Spokane Valley Fire Department will be arriving Tuesday to aid in the investigation.

Dragoo said the dog has been used in Pullman before during a string of arson fires in May of 2012.   At this time, officials do not believe the two incidents are related.

Dragoo has been aided in the investigation by two other Pullman firefighters who have been trained in fire investigation—Erik Taylor and Tony Nuttman and along with help from firefighter Reed McPherson; and two police officers trained in the criminal aspect of fire investigations--Chris Engle from Pullman Police and Darren Jones from  Washington State University Police.

In addition to those investigators, an officer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined investigators Monday to aid in the effort to determine the exact cause of the fire.

Fire Chief Mike Heston said the owners of the Grove Apartments, College Crest of North Carolina, have given full cooperation to the Pullman Fire Department and have even provided airplanes so investigators could get an aerial view of the fire scene to help pinpoint the exact location of the origin of the fire.

Heston said the fire department is continuing to look into the problem with non-functioning hydrants on the property.  The first two hydrants that firefighters took were not working.   After going through the site Monday, Heston said that the hydrants that were functioning could not be taken by firefighters due to the intensity of the heat. Construction officials said that other hydrants were scheduled to come on line today (Monday).

According to records in the city building inspection office, if the destroyed buildings had been completed, the value would have been close to $13 million.  Building D and E were 32 unit structures and their completed value would have been $4.1 million each.  The clubhouse was an eight unit building and its completed value was $2.4 million and building F was a 16-unit structure with completed value at $2.25 million.

In addition to the buildings, there were a number of pieces of equipment on site—including lights, front loaders, bulldozers, backhoes and a couple of vehicles.  Dragoo said there were 15 pieces of equipment damaged and three that were totaled in the fire.  The heat melted the vinyl siding of two nearby apartment complexes at Boulder Creek and Steptoe and cracked windows across Terre View Drive at the university's Research and Technology Park.

The building owners were bringing in fencing to secure the site of the fire for investigators.  Heston said as soon as the department can conclude its investigation they can release it to the construction company so they can remove the debris and start the process of rebuilding.  In the meantime, construction crews were busy on the site Monday working on the other four apartment buildings that firefighters saved from the three alarm fire that started Sunday around 3 a.m.

Heston said he was grateful for the cooperation received from neighboring communities that responded through mutual aid agreements—Whitman Rural Fire District 12; Moscow city and rural fire departments, and the Colfax Fire Department.

According to a news release from WSU News, housing officials have been in contact with Campus Crest Communities, owners of the Grove, to see how they can assist those students impacted by the fire.  Terry Boston, assistant vice president of administrative services, was quoted in the release as saying that WSU has space available in on-campus residence halls and limited space in university-owned apartments for those who were planning to live in the units destroyed by fire.

-- PFD --

(Written by Glenn Johnson, PFD-PIO, 509 432-6894)