No smoke alarms went off during equipment fire in Eastlick

Buildings only have to comply with fire codes that existed when they were built

LUKE HUDSON, Evergreen reporter

Overheating, smoking equipment in the Eastlick Hall basement failed to trigger smoke detectors and sprinklers on Wednesday. 

Darren Jones, WSU Fire and Safety Compliance officer, said the fire began inside a drying oven in Eastlick G94. The contents of the oven caught fire, burned up the oxygen inside the oven and burned out, which produced smoke.

Jones said neither G94 nor the hallway outside the room has smoke detectors but the room does have sprinklers. 

This is because buildings only have to comply with fire codes that existed when they were built, Jones said. Buildings do not have to be updated to current codes unless they receive modifications that require a building permit.

“When it comes down to it, ‘Should all the buildings have smoke detectors, sprinklers?’ I mean, that’s the best thing for the occupants,” Jones said. “But [for] some of these older buildings … it might not be the most economic thing to do.”

He said Eastlick Hall was built in 1977.

Eastlick Hall is also in a state of poor condition, according to the WSU Facility Condition Index. This Index is a method of evaluating the condition of a building using a ratio of cost-to-repair over cost-to-replace model.

“Poor condition” refers to a state where it would require significant repair or a major capital project to correct every issue.  

About 70 percent of buildings on campus are in poor condition or worse, said Olivia Yang, WSU associate vice president of facilities services, during a Faculty Senate meeting on Dec. 5.

Faculty and staff should check drying ovens, especially older models that don’t have accurate temperature gauges, wrote Glenn Miller, manager of the Eastlick store, in an email sent to faculty and staff of the School of Biological Sciences on Thursday.

Jones said the oven that caught fire did not have a temperature gauge that showed degrees, only a scale of 1-10. 

Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston said the department responded to two calls related to this incident. 

Heston said the department responded to the first call and was unable to locate the source of the smell. After some time the odor dissipated and firefighters left.

Firefighters later responded a second time and found the overheating drying oven in Eastlick. Heston said firefighters unplugged the machine then left the scene.