Washington organization investigates flood response

Investigation to close around November focuses on flood



Washington Labor and Industries to investigate emergency response to the flooding that occured on Apr 9 on North Grand Avenue between Dissmore's and the UPS Customer Center.

JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

Washington Labor and Industries (L&I) launched an investigation into the City of Pullman and Pullman Fire Department response to the April 9 flood.

Frank Ameduri, L&I communications consultant for the division of occupational safety and health, said L&I received a complaint on April 19 regarding Pullman’s response to the flood. He said the complaint was found to be valid and an official investigation into the case began May 8.

Ameduri said the investigation would last no longer than six months, so final reports will be available around November at the latest.

He said the complaint revolved around possible improper rescue efforts made by the city and the fire department.

“[The investigators] go looking for anything, not just the thing that was the source of the complaint,” he said. “They look at the entire operation and see if there were any health and safety violations going on.”

Ryan Scharnhorst, Pullman Fire Department assistant fire chief, said the department is doing everything possible to cooperate and assist the L&I investigation team.

He said he was interviewed by L&I investigator and safety compliant supervisor Rick Taylor. He said it occurred around the week of May 6.

Scharnhorst said the investigators also spoke to Pullman Fire Department Cpt. Eric Reiber.

Scharnhorst said he and Fire Chief Mike Heston were not in Pullman during the time of the flood. He said they were both attending a training out of town and did not have on-scene knowledge.

Ameduri said the investigators rank the violations on three levels: Minor, severe and willful.

He said a minor violation is considered a general violation and do not carry fines. Serious violations carry fines dependent on criteria like what the violation was and how many people were affected by it.

Ameduri said willful violations will increase the fine times ten. He said willful violations consist of severe violations where personnel in charge knew a violation was occurring, yet allowed it to happen anyway.

“If you got a serious violation that carried a seven thousand dollar fine, and then it was found to be willful,” he said. “the fine would then become a seventy thousand dollar fine.”

Ameduri said violations are usually listed separately and each carries its own fine.

“[The investigators] won’t draw any conclusions until they’ve gotten to the end,” he said.

Scharnhorst said there are rules and regulations within the city and state dictating how the fire department responds to incidents like the flood.

“It’s the way it is and we will keep working it, and make sure we do anything we can to keep our employees safe and deliver the best service we can to our citizens,” he said.