PULLMAN, Wash. — Pullman Fire Prevention Officer Richard Dragoo said lighted smoking materials on a couch on an outside porch are likely the cause of an early morning fire today (Aug. 26) at a Washington State University fraternity.
No one was seriously injured in the blaze at Phi Kappa Sigma, 715 NE Oak. The fire was called in at 5:25 a.m.
Seventeen occupants at the fraternity were taken to Pullman Memorial Hospital. Two were admitted. One was released and the other is still being evaluated for smoke inhalation. Sixteen others were treated and released.
Pullman and WSU firefighters and police responded to the emergency. When firefighters arrived, flames could be seen in the overhang above the entry, according to Pullman Police Chief Ted Weatherly. Smoke damage is present throughout the house.
Several members of the neighboring fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, saw flames before firefighters arrived and ran to the house to alert those who were sleeping.
Firefighters helped many leave the building. Everyone expected to be in the house was accounted for. By 6:26 a.m., 25 firefighters had the fire controlled and were putting out hot spots. Many of the house fire doors were closed, which helped limit some of the damage. Two paramedics also entered the house after the flames were doused to retrieve a gray kitten from one of the rooms. The kitten is reported to be in good shape.
“Room where fire doors were closed received little damage, but those with open doors received major smoke damage,” Dragoo said.
At the fire, university administrators worked with police and firefighters to ensure the house occupants were safe and comfortable, said A.L. Jamison, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students at WSU. Jamison said the fraternity members met with university officials. The fraternity members decided to stay temporarily with fraternity brothers who live in off-campus housing. The fraternity’s corporation board and the university are looking for a place for the members to live together.
“We have resident halls available if they choose to live there until we work out a more permanent arrangement,” Jamison said. “We are looking for a place for them to live together as a fraternity.”
Neighbors and other community members also helped out, bringing blankets and clothing and offering housing. Neighbors Delta Sigma Phi are feeding the members. Pullman Transit provided a bus for the fraternity members so they could stay warm, but be near the scene. The Red Cross provided food and hot drinks at a station near the area on College Hill’s southwest side. A neighborhood church is providing clothing.
“I was distressed at what happened, but I was just truly impressed with the cooperative efforts of this community,” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins, who was at the scene early this morning. Rawlins’ home is within a block of the Phi Kappa Sigma house. WSU does not own the fraternities’ and sororities’ houses.
“Pullman and WSU firefighters and police responded immediately and were just a great help to all the students — not only helping them get out but helping them deal with the situation,” added Charlene Jaeger, vice president for student affairs at WSU.
Jaeger said Pullman Memorial Hospital staff also helped students deal with the difficult incident.
“The students in the hospital quickly regained their smiles, and I think that is the result of how they were being treated,” she said.