Pullman firefighters, along with Whitman Country Rural District 12, were called to the chemistry building at 2:22 p.m. for a report of a fire with injuries on the fifth floor of the structure. Capt. James Turpin said one male student was transported to Pullman Regional Hospital with third degree burns on his left leg. Third degree is considered the most serious level of burns.
Turpin said a female student fell backwards when the fire erupted but did not appear to have any physical injuries. The woman, who was pregnant, told officers that she would go in her own vehicle to see a physician and get checked out.
Witnesses told WSU police and firefighters that they had been running an experiment in a laboratory with Hexane for most of the day. As the experiment progressed they doubled the chemical and the amount of electricity used in the experiment.
Wikipedia defines Hexanes as hydrocarbons that are significant constituents of gasoline. It says they are widely used as cheap, relatively safe, largely nonreactive solvents.
Students told firefighters that they used an extinguisher but that did not stop the fire. They said they also tried to close the vent hood but could not get full closure. Firefighters put out the blaze with their extinguishers.
Students were allowed back in the structure after about 40 minutes. WSU police officers were conducting an investigation into the incident and members of the WSU Environmental Health and Safety department were also on the scene. The amount of damage to the section of the lab was unknown at this time.