PULLMAN — Around 200 Washington State University students will be looking for new housing for fall after a massive fire destroyed four apartment buildings that were planned to open soon.
The Sunday morning blaze, labeled suspicious by fire officials, incinerated 88 units at the Grove apartment complex on the north end of town. The completed buildings would have had a value close to $13 million, building permits show.
A Spokane Valley Fire Department dog trained in detecting signs of arson will arrive Tuesday to help investigators find the cause, said Pullman Fire Prevention Officer Rich Dragoo, the lead investigator.
The dog also was used in a string of arsons on the campus in May 2012, though officials said they do not believe Sunday’s fire is connected to them.
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The fire hit five weeks before fall classes begin, and students who signed leases for the units are hunting for other accommodations.
“I don’t think we’re going to have people pitching tents, but there is going to be pressure on housing,” said Eileen Macoll, president of the Whitman County Landlord-Tenant Association.
“This is going to put probably 200 young people in a scramble for housing. I think the shock is still probably just setting in, and as so many young people travel during the summer, they may not even be aware of their situation as yet,” Macoll said. “I certainly feel for them.”
Campus Crest Communities, the Charlotte, N.C.-based owner of the Grove, said through a spokesman, “We are confident we will be able to provide alternative housing accommodations for all affected residents.”
WSU offered to work with Campus Crest to help students find alternative housing, said Terry Boston, assistant vice president for student affairs and enrollment. That could include some space in the university’s resident halls, he said.
After speaking with a company representative, Boston said he was sure “we’re not going to be in a situation where a student is going to be without housing.”