Investigators say a battery charger was the cause of a residential fire in Pullman that destroyed a two-story townhouse early Thursday morning.
The homeowner was charging large lithium batteries overnight in the garage when the charger caught fire, according to a press release from the Pullman Fire Department.
Pullman Fire Marshal Chris Wehrung said the damage from the fire is estimated to be around $500,000. Along with the townhouse and its contents, two cars and a motorcycle were destroyed in the blaze.
Residents of the townhouse on Lost Trail Drive told firefighters they immediately evacuated the building and called authorities around 7 a.m. after a smoke detector alerted them to the fire. A neighbor told investigators he heard popping sounds before looking out his window to see flames emerging from the nearby structure.
The Pullman Fire Department and Whitman County Fire District 12 responded to the blaze, which also included a report from the Pullman Police Department of exploding ammunition in the basement garage.
Firefighters were able to prevent the flames from penetrating a wall between the townhouse and an adjacent home. The adjacent home was saved from any interior damage and its inhabitants were allowed to return after a city building inspector determined it was safe to occupy.
The initial news release said a police officer was treated on scene after a bullet grazed his right arm. That officer did not require further medical attention.
Residents of the townhouse are receiving aid from the American Red Cross and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, where the owner was employed.
However, a GoFundMe campaign was created to help the couple get back on their feet. Nearly $5,000 was raised by Thursday afternoon, and by the evening over $12,000 had been donated to help cover damages from the fire.