Lewis and Clark Valley News

Smoke from Bustad Hall caused by mechanical failure

Smoke stemming from a mechanical issue caused people inside Bustad Hall to activate fire alarms Tuesday morning.

People in the building noticed a strong odor of burning rubber or insulation, Charlie Powell, WSU public information officer, said. White smoke began entering labs and rooms on the third and fourth floors, which caused people to call dispatch.

The automatic fire alarm had not been tripped, so Pullman Fire Department instructed those inside the building to pull the alarms themselves, Pullman Fire Assistant Chief Ryan Scharnhorst said.

Scharnhorst said the smoke came from a mechanical issue, likely a motor burning out, in the top floor penthouse area of Bustad Hall. He also said they did not see anything that makes them believe there was an actual fire.

People in the building exited quickly, Scharnhorst said.

“Everyone did a great job,” he said. “They evacuated well.”

The only issue arose when the fire department silenced the alarms to improve their communication. Some thought this meant the fire emergency was over and began reentering the building before it was cleared, he said. He urged people to remain outside of buildings until they are cleared by emergency personnel in the future.

Scharnhorst estimated the total time from initial response to allowing people back in the building at 30 minutes. WSU Facility Operations will now assess what caused the smoke in the coming days, he said.

Additional reporting by Rachel Sun

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