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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: fires

Fireworks cause death, destruction in 2012

Boys will be boys, as the saying goes.

Males between 8 and 21 years old were responsible for most of the 354 fireworks-related incidents reported in 2012, according to data released by the Washington State Fire Marshal's Office.

In all, there were 128 fires and 226 injuries, including 11 amputations and one death. The data come from reports submitted to the state Fire Marshal’s Office by fire departments and hospital emergency rooms.

One celebration turned deadly when a 61-one-year-old Richland, Wash. man was killed after attempting to relight an illegally obtained, professional display firework that failed to go off. Upon inspecting it and relighting it, the shell exploded, hitting him in the upper body and head.

In all, illegal fireworks were to blame for 26 fires and 64 injuries statewide last year around the holiday. The majority of incidents occurred on July 4. Most injuries occurred while a person held a firework in their hand, stood too close to lit fireworks, or leaned over fireworks.

Seven sparkler bomb incidents were reported, including two fires or explosions that caused facial, torso and hand injuries. Sparkler bombs are considered improvised explosive devices, which are illegal to manufacture or posses, said Lysandra Trejo, deputy state fire marshal.

Misuse of fireworks also damaged property. Seven residential fires accounted for $880,500 loss.

With another Independence Day just around the corner, authorities are reminding the public to stay safe.

Supervision of children 14 and under is critical in reducing emergency responses to fireworks incidents, Trejo said in a news release.

“Talk to your kids about fireworks and safety,” Trejo said. “Set family boundaries. Only adults should light fireworks.”

She added that fireworks should be stored in a secure location out of the reach and sight of curious children.

“Personal fireworks require personal responsibility,” she said.

She said those lighting fireworks should remember the three Bs of fireworks safety:

Be prepared – have water nearby and put pets indoors.

Be safe – only adults should light fireworks and,

Be responsible – clean up firework debris.

Keep an eye out for a listing of local fireworks laws in The Spokesman-Review on Monday.

More information about fireworks safety, public fireworks displays and the fireworks laws for your area also can be found at the Celebrate Safely website, www.wsp.wa.gov/fire/fireworks.htm

Kevin Ellison to stay in jail without bail

A pro football player who claims God told him to start a fire at his apartment complex in Liberty Lake will remain in jail amid concerns about his mental health.

Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, who was dismissed from the Spokane Shock arena football team after his arrest June 14, repeatedly claimed to be Jesus Christ, including to an elderly woman who was at the hospital when Ellison was treated for smoke inhalation, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed.

“He may have some mental issues,” Ahmed said.

Ellison also told Shock general manager Ryan Rigmaiden “that he was Jesus Christ, and that he was part of the rapture, and that God told him to start the fire,” Ahmed said. “He did not believe it (the fire) was going to harm him because God told him he'd protect him.”

Ellison told Rigmaiden he started the fire with a marijuana blunt.

Ellison, a former standout defense back for the University of Southern California Trojans, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a grand jury indictment charging him with malicious use of fire to damage commercial property. He faces five to 20 years in prison if convicted.

His public defender, Kim Deater, asked for Ellison to be allowed to leave jail and live with his mother and brother in Los Angeles, though she said they wants him to undergo mental health treatment.

“They think that might be an issue,” Deater said.

Deater described Ellison as “a good friend, a good teammate, a good son, a good player.”

She said his success in football shows he can work toward a goal with a large group of people.

“That takes cooperation, that takes a bond, and that takes character,” Deater said.

She also said Ellison did not tell the elderly woman at the hospital that he was Jesus - he simply grasped her hand and prayed with her.

But Imbrogno ordered Ellison to stay in the Spokane County Jail after Ahmed described a series of bizarre behavior that included statements from a Shock dancer who said she fears Ellison.

“She became afraid of Mr. Ellison after he texted her specifically that he was Jesus Christ,” Ahmed said.

The woman, who was not identified, also said Ellison asked her to marry him just moments after meeting her.

He said Ellison's roommate, Chris Tucker, told investigators that Ellison told him he'd been Baptized just a few days before the fire. Tucker also said Ellison had offered him Vicodin to ease his pain while at an away game in Chicago recently.

It was Tucker who first realized there was a fire in the apartment he shared with Ellison.

The defensive lineman for the Shock told investigators he first thought the smoke was from burning food. He even took the batteries out of the smoke detector in his bedroom before he realized the fire was coming from Ellison's room, Ahmed said. He alerted Ellison to the fire, but Ellison told him “I'm good.” and didn't leave.

Ellison escaped the fire by jumping from a window of the third-floor apartment. The fire caused about $100,000 in damage. Ahmed emphasized that children live next door to Ellison's apartment.

Ellison was drafted in the sixth round by the San Diego Chargers in 2009. He was released by the team following a May 2010 arrest in San Diego on a controlled-substance charge after police reportedly found 100 Vicodin tablets in his car without a prescription. The charges was dropped.

Ellison joined the Seattle Seahawks but was released shortly before the 2010 season opener.

Shock player: God told me to start fire

A pro football player who leapt from his burning third-floor apartment in Liberty Lake Thursday said he started the blaze with a marijuana blunt because God told him to, authorities say.

 Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, a starting linebacker/defensive back for the Spokane Shock arena football team, initially told firefighters that he’d been smoking in bed, but evidence collected at the scene didn’t match that explanation, said Spokane Valley Fire Marshal Kevin Miller.

Read the rest of the story here.

‘Middle-finger salute’ preceded fire

A man accused of trying to light his apartment complex on fire gave a surveillance camera the middle-finger salute before doing so, fire officials allege.

Ian W. Godfrey, 29, said he was angry with a flier being distributed at the HiFumi En Apartments, 926 E. 8th Ave., when he lit one on fire and walked through the building, according to the Spokane Fire Department.

The smoke triggered the apartment's overhead sprinklers. Fire officials suspected arson, and the apartment manager recognized Godfrey from the surveillance video.

Godfrey was arrested that day for attempted first-degree arson. He was released on his own recognizance after appearing in Superior Court Wednesday.

Boy faces arson charge for house fire

A 13-year-old boy has been arrested allegedly setting fire to a vacant home in north Spokane last month.

The boy was booked into Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center after being arrested at Glover Middle School. He was to appear before a judge on Monday, officials said.

Investigators with the Spokane Fire Department say the boy confessed to setting fire to a home at 4218 N. Ash St. on March 30. Crews quickly extinguished the blaze, which was confined to one bedroom and the roof area above that room. The rest of the home suffered extensive heat and smoke damage.

The suspect faces a charge of first-degree arson.

Fire fueled by Molotov cocktail, meth offer

A truck fire outside an East Sprague Avenue motel was spurred by a lover's triangle and fueled by not just a Molotov cocktail but the promise of methamphetamine in return.

Donald S. Georgette was staying at the Maple Tree Motel, 4824 E. Sprague Ave., with a woman who was trying to end her relationship with Odean B. Chappel, 44, when Georgette received threatening text messages from Chappel around Feb. 5, according to court records filed last week.

Georgette's 1975 Ford truck was set on fire Feb. 6 between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

A woman who was staying in a shed at 1828 E. Riverside Ave., told fire investigators two men prepared a Molotov cocktail there using a beer bottle, rag and gasoline while they discussed doing a job for Chappel, documents say.

One of those men told investigatorshe later saw Chappel give the other man, Jesse James Icard, 43, methamphetamine as a payment for burning the truck.

Chappel has been arrested and is due in court today on arson, harassment and manufacture of an incendiary device charges.

Icard still is at large.

Pot for homework-induced arthritis?

A medical marijuana patient contacted when a fire broke out at his Greenacres home told police he had been prescribed pot because of arthritis in his hand caused by “too much homework,” authorities say.

 The 19-year-old man and his 22-year-old roommate had 27 marijuana plants at his father's home in the 2500 block of South Timberlane Drive, which they are legally able to have under the state's medical marijuana law.

The plants were not seized after the fire last Friday, and neither man was arrested, but Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan sent out a news release today that said Detective Travis Hansen asked the men what their special ailments were because “they were so young and appeared to be fit and in good health.”

In addition to the 19-year-old's reported homework-induced arthritis, the 22-year-old said he had severe pain in one of his feet. Reagan said suspicions were aroused when one of the tenants told a fire inspector had had “smoked a bowl” and left to get something to eat. 

But the fire does not appear to be caused by smoked marijuana, rather the 19-year-old may have discarded a cigarette in bark outside the home, said Bill Clifford, spokesman for the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

“He smokes a lot, both cigarettes and marijuana,” Clifford said. “He reminded me of Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Damage is estimated at $300,000, Clifford said. The home is insured.

The man's 53-year-old father suffered burns to right arm, neck and face while escaping the blaze, which began while he was downstairs watching TV. A smoke alarm alerted him to the blaze.

A neighbor also was treated for smoke inhalation he suffered while stopping the fire from spreading to his home.

Niece found fit for trial in man’s death

ST. MARIES, Idaho (AP) — A psychologist has found a North Idaho woman is fit to stand trial in the shooting death of her uncle in May.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reports Daniel Hayes of Hayden Lake found 28-year-old Melisa R. Bates could both understand the charge against her and help her attorney with her defense.

Bates is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Robert D. Marek at his house eight miles south of St. Maries. Court records say Bates had been staying with Marek.

Benewah County Prosecutor Douglas Payne said Marek was shot with a handgun and beaten with a metal rod and an attempt was made to burn his body.

Bates is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 22 in St. Maries before Magistrate Patrick McFadden.

Fire suspects left ‘unintended’ message

An “unintended” voice mail left on an arson victim's cell phone helped identify suspects in a Spokane Valley house fire last week.

 The home's renter, Pavel Aleksandrov, said he received what appeared to be an unintentional voice mail on July 23 in which he could hear Sergey A. Kravchenko, 27; Maksim P. Oboznyy, 21, and another man talking about how they should go to his home at 4418 E. 15th Ave., according to court documents.

The rental home was set on fire shortly after, causing $100,000 in damage, and Aleksandrov discovered his television and laptop computer had been stolen. Aleksandrov told police he was the foreman of a construction company in Louisiana in 2009 when the company could not make payroll.

Kravchenko also worked for the company, and he and another employee were upset about what they claimed were lost wages, according to court documents.

Kravchenko and Oboznyy were arrested Friday, and suspect Roman I. Ryakhovskaya, 21, of Nine Mile Falls, turned himself in Saturday. Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest a fourth suspect, Aleksander N. Shingarey, 23, (pictured) who is charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree arson.

The three others suspects also are charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree arson; Ryakhovskaya also is charged with first-degree arson; Kravchenko and Oboznyy also are charged with residential burglary and second-degree theft for allegedly stealing a TV and computer before Ryakhovskaya allegedly set house on fire.

A neighbor identified the suspects through photo montages and said he'd fired a shot out his window to try to scare them away after they told him to mind his own business, according to court documents.

Shingarey, who was arrested last summer after a shooting on the South Hill, last gave an address in the 4000 block of East 23rd Avenue in Spokane.

Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

CdA police officer saves family from fire

A Coeur d’Alene police officer saved a family of four from a structure fire early Friday.

The police department received a report of a structure fire about 4:33 a.m., according to a news release. Officer Gus Wessel was the first to arrive at the fire on West Vista Drive, where he found the home’s attached garage in flames.

Wessel entered the home and woke an adult female and three children and escorted them, along with the family pet, to safety, the news release said. He also moved the family’s car away from the fire to prevent damage to it.

Wessel has been full time with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department for three years, where he has been assigned to the patrol division.

Prior to his full-time employment with the department, Wessel worked as a bike patrol officer assigned to the downtown summer program.

Idaho murder suspect to get mental eval

A 26-year-old woman accused of killing her uncle in St. Maries, Idaho, will undergo a mental evaluation.

 Melisa R. Bates could be heard yelling uncontrollably from her holding cell upstairs from the Benewah County courthouse Wednesday, according to KHQ.

Bates was to be arraigned on a murder charge, but that has been postponed 30 days as she completed a mental health evaluation. Bates will be held at a mental health institution in Lewiston, KHQ reports.

Bates was arrested near Bayview Tuesday after deputies found the burned remains of her uncle, Robert Dean Marek, 43, while checking to see why he didn't show up for work.

A motive for the slaying has not been released.

Jury acquits man of house theft, arson

A jury acquitted a man accused of the theft and arson of his former landlord's Spokane home.

Stephen J. Czako, 26, was found not guilty after a trial before Superior Court Judge Tari Etizen.

Czako said he was buying the home at 4621 N. Post St. from Joanne Tucker; Tucker (pictured) says he forged her signature.

Investigators said Czako set the home on fire in October 2008, but jurors didn't buy the claim.

Czako was repsrented by Chris Phelps.

His sister, Shannon Czako, is scheduled to stand trial next month on charges attempted first-degree theft and official misconduct for allegedly using a notary on a document she knew was forged.

Past coverage: June 3, 2009: Suspicious blaze at center of house dispute

Arsonist pleads guilty after just 13 days

A longtime felon and litigation seeker faces 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges related to two arson fires in Spokane Valley.

Anthony W. Sotin, 42, was indicted by a grand jury just 13 days ago. He pleaded guilty this morning in U.S. District Court in Spokane to use of a fire to commit a federal felony and malicious use of property to damage property used in interstate commerce.

Sotin will remain in custody pending sentencing, which is scheduled for May 27. The first charge mandates 10 years in prison; the second by at least five years and no more than 20. 

The plea deal calls for prosecutors to recommend Sotin be sentenced to 120 months in prison and three years probation. It also drops one count of wire fraud, which carried a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison.

Sotin was accused of starting a fire in a building on Nora Avenue Feb. 9 and setting a car on fire Jan. 12, then filing a false insurance claim.

Sotin is well known by law enforcement and has filed more than 15 lawsuits against various government entities, including 12 in 1996 alone.

He currently has a lawsuit filed against the city of Spokane, alleging his rights were violated because he wasn't allowed to leave messages for a public defender representing him in a Municipal Court case.

Past coverage:

Feb. 19: Arrest made in building, vehicle fires

Aug. 8, 1997: Latest antics add to Sotin's long rap sheet

Trial begins in alleged house theft, arson

A man charged with the theft and arson of his former landlord's house is on trial in Spokane County Superior Court.

Lawyers gave opening statements this morning in the case of Stephen J. Czako, who is charged with first-degree theft and first-degree arson.

Czako, 26, said he was buying the home at 4621 N. Post St. from Joanne Tucker; Tucker (pictured) says he forged her signature. Investigators believe Czako set the home on fire in October 2008.

The case took months for fire and police to investigate and hinges on the authenticity of documents and handwriting samples.

The trial before Judge Tari Eitzen is expected to last into next week.

Steve Garvin is prosecuting the case. Stephen Czako is represented by Chris Phelps. His sister, Shannon Czako, is to stand trial next month on charges attempted first-degree theft and official misconduct for allegedly using a notary on a document she knew was forged.

Past coverage:

June 3, 2009: Suspicious blaze at center of house dispute

$250k bond for arson, child rape suspect

A child rape suspect pulled from his burning Chattaroy home this week remains jailed on $250,000 bail after his first court appearance Thursday.

David Wayne Jewell, 40, faces first-degree child molestation and first-degree arson charges after he allegedly tries to torch his home at 34124 N. Newport Highway when deputies arrived to investigate a child rape report about 1:20 a.m Wednesday.

Jewell lit the home on fire and was pulled to safety by deputies after wielding a knife and homemade flame thrower, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. He was shocked with a Taser after refusing to drop the items.

Jewell denied the rape allegation in interviews with detectives at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he was treated before being booked into jail.

Jewell appeared before Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins Thursday via video from the jail.

$100k bond for arson suspects in murder

Two men who police believe helped a murder suspect burn his victim’s home were ordered to stay in jail on $100,000 bond today.

Detectives say Mark A. Hoffman, 23, told them he went to William F. Hanel’s home with Ryan D. Corkery, 27, (pictured) and knew Corkery was planning to burn the residence to hide evidence of a murder, according to court documents prepared by Spokane police.

Police say Hoffman identified Eric M. Andersen, 45, as an accomplice and told police he hadn’t stopped the men from burning the home, nor had he called police.

Andersen was arrested at Holy Family Hospital, where family said he was being treated for possible pneumonia. Andersen told police he knew Corkery and Hoffman but “denied being involved in the arson,” police wrote.

Corkery, who was identified by Hanel’s friends as his boyfriend, has said he killed Hanel, 56, Oct. 8 or Oct. 9 because Hanel molested him and a relative. Hanel’s body was discovered in his burning home at 12036 S. Player Drive on Oct. 12.

The three men remain in Spokane County Jail on first-degree arson charges. Corkery also is charged with first-degree murder.

Past coverage:

Oct. 14: Suspect: Sex abuse claim triggered slaying

Oct. 13: Man arrested for murder in Hangman Valley fire

Suspect: Sex abuse triggered slaying

A suspect in the murder of a Spokane man told investigators he beat and strangled the victim with an electrical cord after the man began talking about molesting a relative of the suspect, documents released today say.

 Ryan D. Corkery, 27, was ordered to stay in jail on $1 million bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court Thursday on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree arson.

Sheriff’s investigators say Corkery admitted killing William Frazier Hanel, 56, in Hanel’s home at 12036 S. Player Drive on Oct. 8 or Oct. 9 while the two were drinking.

Corkery said he returned to the home early Tuesday with two unnamed people and set Hanel’s home on fire, according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Ricketts. Corkery told KHQ in a jailhouse interview Thursday that Hanel, who was convicted in 1994 of of patronizing a juvenile prostitute. had molested him and a relative years ago.

Read my full story here.

Man accused of murder in Hangman fire

A felon already wanted by the state Department of Corrections was arrested today on murder and arson charges related to a suspicious fire near the Hangman Valley Golf Course. 

Ryan D. Corkery, 27, was detained at a North Hutchinson Road motel today, near where police found a car belonging to William Frazier Hanel.

Hanel, 56, was found dead in burning home at 12036 S. Player Drive early Tuesday.

Firefighters were called to the home at 7:11 a.m. after a neighbor saw smoke; they found Hanel’s lifeless body face down in the kitchen, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Read my full story here.

Firefighters sent to wrong home in fatal fire

Spokane firefighters were sent to the wrong address when responding to a fatal house fire early Sunday.

Investigators believe James L. Stowell, 46, died of smoke inhalation, but they’re still trying to determine what caused the fire at 1003 E. Ermina Ave., said Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer.

Initial response was delayed when Firefighters were dispatched to the wrong address but were rerouted before arrival.

They arrived at Stowell’s home at 1:22 a.m. and found it engulfed in flames; police already were on scene. The initial 911 call was made at 1:12 a.m.

The fire at the 700-square-foot home was under control within 15 minutes. Nearly 30 firefighters, three engines, two senior ladders and a heavy rescue rig battled the blaze.

Tip on text in arson fire gets teens $1,500

Two teenagers will receive $750 each today for tipping fire investigators to a text message that helped arrest five people, including a man now accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend, for an arson fire at a Spokane Valley elementary school last June.

The fire, which began in a garbage can under a play area at Adams Elementary School, 14707 E. Eighth Ave., caused $1,500 in damage, according to the Spokane Valley Fire Department. 

Robbie W. Bishop, 20, is charged with second-degree arson; four girls also were arrested.

The NW Insurance Council and Arson Alarm Foundation are providing the rewards. Adams Elementary Principal Jeff Dufresne will be receiving the money on their behalf at a ceremony today at 9:30 a.m.

Bishop remains in jail on the arson charge as well as two counts of second-degree murder for the July 22, 2009, stabbing death of 33-year-old Robin M. Anderson, who was pregnant with Bishop’s child.

Bishop has mental health problems and was released from jail before the murder because Eastern State Hospital officials said they didn’t have room for him.

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