After four vacant apartment buildings went up in flames in an early morning three-alarm blaze Sunday, six investigators from Pullman Fire, Pullman Police and Washington State University Police are sorting through the charred rubble.
Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston confirmed to KHQ's Kelsey Watts an arson dog is being brought in to the Grove Apartments off Terre View Drive to aid in the investigation Tuesday to search for accelerants or other evidence that the fire may have been set on purpose.
"It's suspicious because it was so huge when we got here, and we're on a site where we don't have a lot of sources for ignition, so we're trying to rule those out," Heston added. "Until we rule it out, we're going to call it suspicious."
He said their first job is to rule out other potential causes; there were extension cords inside the buildings, and fire investigators will be looking at whether they had power as well as if other fuel sources were on the site.
So far, Heston believes the fire is not related to the string of four unsolved arson fires that were set near the WSU campus last summer, however that may change as new evidence in the investigation comes to light.
"We're taking this very seriously, as we took the other ones as well, but people's lives were at stake here on this one," Heston said.
The fire burned so fast and hot, Heston said the flames were 100 feet high when crews arrived on scene. Two neighboring apartment complexes were evacuated, as the intense heat melted the siding on the buildings. Heston said had the fire burned uncontrolled for another few minutes, one of those separate complexes full of students would have likely caught fire,
Right now, damages to the Grove Apartments are estimated at $13 million dollars.
Terry Boston, the Assistant Vice President for Administrative Services at WSU said the university will have a better idea in the next 24-48 hours of the impact on students as Campus Crest gets more information.
Boston said Campus Crest still plans to have 96 beds available by August 17th, two days before the beginning of the fall semester. WSU may be able to house another 100-200 students in its residence halls.
Campus Crest is in the process of contacting students who had signed leases for the now burned apartment buildings to make arrangements.