CUB evacuates for Panda Express fire

James Cook, Evergreen Reporter

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The Compton Union Building was evacuated Monday morning after a flash fire started in Panda Express, slightly injuring the head cook, according to the Pullman Police Department.

“I got to work at about 10:45,” said Doug Wallace, a senior psychology student and cook at Panda Express. “The stir fry wok was left on and unattended. There was nothing we could do once the oil lit on fire.”

Wallace said the head cook threw chow mein mix on the burning oil, and the water from the lettuce caused it to flash.

“Everyone in the restaurant dove to the ground. It was like an explosion,” he said.

Pullman Assistant Fire Chief Ryan Scharnhorst said the CUB did not sustain any structural damage. He said water damage was minimal and limited to carpets and small leaks into the The Bookie’s downstairs. The leaks damaged some of the merchandise.

“The sprinklers did more damage than the fire,” said WSU Police officer Darren Jones.

The CUB reopened at 11:40 a.m., but CUB officials are not sure when Panda Express will reopen.

CUB Senior Associate Director Karee Shaw said Panda Express will reopen after being inspected by WSU Environmental Health and Safety.

Wallace said there were not many customers in line, and they all got out of the way once the fire started.

“It was crazy. Everyone is a little shaken up,” he said.

Another Panda Express employee and sophomore nursing major Max Chernev said the only one to sustain an injury was the head cook, who had burns on his arms from protecting his face. He said firemen wrapped the head cook’s arms in bandages, and did not take him to the hospital.

CUB Director Sean Greene said the building has had three fires since opening in August 2008. Two were from Panda Express.

Shaw said new training practices need to be implemented at Panda Express.

“The CUB and the fire marshal will both follow up with Panda. Some extensive training will be required,” she said.

Wallace also said he believes there is a need for more extensive training for Panda Express employees.

“Nobody knew what to do, we didn’t handle it very well,” he said.

Specifically, Wallace said he wants better training that involves the different types of fire extinguishers and how to stop different kinds of fires.

Several students, including Ahmed Sayid, a freshman studying electrical engineering, are upset that Panda Express is closed.

“It’s the best place to eat in the CUB, I hope it opens soon,” Sayid said.