Fire at Wahle Complex causes $50,000 in damages

Jackson Sorensen, Staff Reporter

A fire occurred Tuesday evening at an apartment in the Wahle Complex that caused an estimated $50,000 in damages. No injuries were reported. 

Deputy Fire Chief Rich Elliot responded to reports of a fire minutes before 5:00 p.m. 

“We were responding to a stove fire that was dispatched as a structure fire because fire had spread to the cabinets and the walls,” Elliot said. “The building was sealed up but we could see signs of an active fire.”

Elliot said the windows in the apartment were stained and cracked from the heat and smoke. A fire engine arrived on location minutes after Elliot arrived and was able to knock down the fire within a few minutes.  

Elliot reported the fire was caused by unattended food on the stove.

Kassidy Malcolm

“The smoke alarms alerted the residents and potentially saved them,” Elliot said. “They didn’t know there was a fire until the smoke detectors went off.” 

The residents are working with CWU Housing to relocate and some of their belongings were damaged in the blaze.

Elliot urged renters to purchase renter’s insurance to ensure that their belongings can be replaced after events like these. He also urged residents to not remove the batteries from their smoke detectors, as they could save lives. 

“The school has always been good with providing alternate housing to students,” Elliot said. “There were people on-scene from housing that were assisting the residents with relocating.”

Casey Mengert and James Akina are neighbors and witnessed the fire. They, along with the residents in the uninhabitable apartment, are having to relocate as well. Their neighboring apartment never caught fire, but was damaged by smoke and heat. 

“Accidents happen,” Mengert said. “This is why we have a fire department.” 

Mengert said the fire department was very professional in putting the fire out and making sure everyone was safe. 

“It was exciting to say the least,” Akina said. “As I got closer and closer to the fire, I slowly started to get more nervous that it was our apartment.” 

Both residents said they are thankful there were no injuries and for the professionalism of those that were there helping put the fire out. 

Elliot expressed the importance of fire safety.

“Set a timer to remind yourself to go check on whatever is on the stove or in the oven,” Elliot said. “Unattended food fires are one of the most common causes of fire, next to electrical.” 

Elliot, Mengert and Akina all expressed the importance of being aware of your surroundings when the oven or stove is on. Elliot said it is important for residents to know where fire extinguishers are and how to use them.

“To combat a grease fire, turn the stove off and cover it with a lid,” Elliot said. “Don’t put water on it. It’ll just make it worse.”