An early-morning fire at Planned Parenthood in Pullman on Friday was arson, according to the Pullman Fire Department and the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The fire, which started about 3:30 a.m., caused significant damage that may keep the health center closed for a month or more, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Tanya Riordan said.
“This is an appalling act of violence towards Planned Parenthood, but unfortunately a predictable ripple effect from the false and incendiary attacks that fuel violence from extremists,” Karl Eastlund, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said in a statement.
FBI Special Agent Frank Harrill said federal agencies were involved because of the history of domestic terrorists targeting providers offering abortion services.
In 1996, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Spokane Valley was bombed. Four men were convicted in the blast.
Planned Parenthood’s Pullman health center offers abortion referrals but does not provide abortion services, according to its website.
Firefighters put out the blaze by 6:30 a.m., Pullman police spokesman Cmdr. Chris Tennant said. The fire burned much of the building’s north side.
The building was determined to be structurally unsafe Friday afternoon because of damaged support beams.
The fire was immediately labeled suspicious because it was at Planned Parenthood.
“It’s an office building that started fire at 3:30 in the morning,” Tennant said. “That’s suspicious.”
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved in the investigation as part of the task force, Harrill said.
The fire follows a recent wave of protests at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. On Aug. 22, an estimated 500 protesters gathered outside the Pullman clinic, waving signs and calling for Congress to defund the organization.
According to local news accounts, many referenced a series of videos released by anti-abortion activists in California that appeared to show Planned Parenthood executives saying the organization profits from the sale of aborted fetal tissue. An analysis commissioned by Planned Parenthood concluded those videos were selectively edited.
Abortion rights activists say violent threats against abortion providers have spiked since the videos were released.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood thanked first responders and the community for their support.
“The fire and corresponding damage at our Pullman Health Center is tragic, although we are immensely grateful no one was on site or injured,” the statement said.
Riordan said Planned Parenthood will look for a temporary office in Pullman so it can resume services as quickly as possible.