KENNEWICK, Wash. — Multiple agencies responded to a structure fire at the Mandarin Apartment on 9th Avenue in Kennewick just after 8:30 a.m. on July 1. The Kennewick Fire Department, Richland Fire and Emergency Services and Benton County Fire District 1 were dispatched.
KFD first arrived about three minutes after being dispatched and noted smoke coming from a second-story balcony fire. The fire had been mostly extinguished by maintenance workers. The first crew used a fire attack hose to finish extinguishing the fire. The fire was out within 15 minutes.
As more crews arrived, they were sent to check if the fire had spread anywhere else. While smoke was found in nearby areas, no extended fire was found. According to KFD, the quick responses of the apartment’s maintenance team and the first fire crews contained the fire from spreading into the apartment and beyond.
Most of the people inside had evacuated on their own before fire crews arrived. However, a search of the building led to a 10-year-old girl alone in the apartment next door. Firefighters took her out of the apartment and waited with her until her parents returned.
One person was inside of the apartment with the burning balcony. They had been asleep when the balcony caught fire, and the apartment had no working smoke detectors. One of their dogs had started barking after the fire started, waking up the person inside and alerting them of the danger. KFD reports the sliding glass door to the balcony had been open at this time, meaning the fire would have spread easily if it hadn’t been put out.
Fire crews stayed after the fire was out to ventilate smoke, clean up and help the Red Cross assist the apartment occupant. The unit where the fire started is not livable, as it needs repairs and power restoration.
The fire was determined to be unintentional. The apartment renter told crews she had friends over the night before, saying they had smoked on her balcony. The KFD Fire Investigator found cigarettes in the potting soil of a flower box on the balcony. Potting soil is flammable and is not a proper method of putting out cigarettes.
“The Kennewick Fire Department would like to remind everyone that potting soil is flammable.” said the press release from Chief Chad Michael. “Cigarettes need to be extinguished and discarded using water and proper cigarette disposal canisters. Additionally, the Kennewick Fire Department would like to remind everyone to ensure operating smoke alarms are placed in all of the proper locations inside of living spaces. Properly operating smoke alarms save lives."