Tammi Young didn’t know what to do when she discovered that she was locked out of her home.
Young and her 7-year-old daughter walked all around the house, looking for an open window or unlocked door.
When they couldn’t find one, Young sent her daughter to a neighbor’s house to warm up, while she hunted for a big rock.
“I was going to break a window,” Young said.
It turned out that she didn’t have to. Young’s neighbor called the Spokane Valley Fire District and firefighters helped her get in without damaging the home she rents.
Firefighters have responded to nearly 100 calls from people locked out of their homes or cars this year.
In the past, that number was higher. But Valley Fire has been forced to limit its response to such calls because of more pressing emergencies.
“Now we only go to ones where there’s a potential for problem,” said assistant chief Karl Bold. “Plus some of the locksmiths were getting upset.”
When a friend dropped Young at her home, she left her coat, bag and house key in the friend’s car. Running cars and children locked in cars or out of a home present dangers firefighters would rather deal with sooner than later, Bold said.
Valley firefighters also help the elderly back into bed, occasionally assist residents with broken pipes and do basic fire safety inspections for businesses.
All depend on availability or personnel.
Back when Valley Fire responded to only 2,000 calls a year, firefighters used to pump water out of flooded basements and get cats out of trees. However, now that the fire district gets 6,000 calls per year, there isn’t time.
But Young and others are glad they can still get help.
“As long as the people are paying us to be here 24 hours a day, we might as well be available for other community services,” Bold said.