Kenwood Square Apartment Fire

Lithium Ion Battery Charger Triggers Fire at Kenwood Square Apartments
Posted on 03/05/2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sunday, March 5, 2023 
Initial Incident Commander: Lt. Brian Parrish
Asst. Chief Ryan Scharnhorst, Incident commander

PULLMAN—Pullman fire investigators said a fire that partially destroyed an apartment Sunday afternoon was caused by a lithium-ion battery that was being charged for a remote-control car while the resident was away from the apartment.

Pullman firefighters were called to the Kenwood Square Apartments, at 1225 NW Nye Street, around 2:30 pm for a report of smoke pouring out a second-floor apartment. Lieutenant Brian Parrish said as his crews were approaching Stadium Way on Grand Avenue, he could see smoke coming from the building and immediately called for a second alarm, bringing additional equipment and personnel, including firefighters from Whitman County Rural District 12.

Parrish said as they approached the back of the building on Stadium Way, he could see fire coming out of the second-floor apartment. Firefighters grabbed a hose line and went down a hillside filled with Juniper bushes to gain better access to the apartment. They were able to knock down the flames to keep the fire contained to that apartment. One of the two firefighters then climbed back up the hill and grabbed a ladder so they could enter the apartment from the back deck. They found additional fire in the bathroom and bedroom and were soon joined by firefighters who came through the front of the building.

The apartment structure, owned and managed by the Community Action Center of Whitman County, had 36 apartment units that were occupied. Pullman and WSU police officers managed to get the 40 residents evacuated and were able to tell firefighters that all the residents were out of the building. Asst. Chief Ryan Scharnhorst said the officers' action allowed firefighters to concentrate on getting the fire under control without having to search each room. Pullman Transit brought a city bus to the scene for residents to stay warm in the 35-degree temperature. The residents were taken to the Pullman Senior Center, adjacent to City Hall on Crestview, and stayed there until they were allowed to return. Pullman Police said they used their community donated Blue Bridge card to purchase pizza for the residents while they waited at the Senior Center.

Paramedics treated one female resident for smoke inhalation at the scene who said she encountered smoke while coming down the stairwell from the third to the second floor. She did not need to be transported to the hospital. Paramedics were called to the Senior Center around 5:15 pm for a report of a Kenwood resident who was experiencing breathing difficulties. That individual was transported to Pullman Regional Hospital.

Pullman fire inspectors and the city building inspector cleared the building for residents to return except for three units. The apartment where the fire occurred and the apartment immediately above that sustained some smoke damage. The apartment directly below had water damage, but that apartment was vacant.

Representatives from the Community Action Center said they were able to get everyone back into Kenwood Square, with residents of the two affected apartments able to use two vacant apartments. They were grateful that the building was inspected in September by the alarm company and all heat and smoke detectors were in working order and they all worked for today’s fire. The amount of damage is pending a review by the insurance company.

This is the second fire in the last several years that was caused by lithium batteries being charged. On October 21, 2021, Pullman firefighters extinguished a fire that destroyed a townhouse on Lost Trail Drive that was caused by large lithium batteries being charged in the garage.

(Written by Glenn Johnson, PFD/PIO)