November 1, 2007 in City

Chimney fire damages rural home

By The Spokesman-Review

Two jack-o’-lanterns grinned mischievously from Margaret Terry’s deck as firefighters stomped in and out of her ranch house. White smoke soared into the cold Halloween air, fueled by small flare-ups of flames that spiked off the roof.

Terry stood back from the house, comforted by three of her friends and kept warm by her New York Giants jacket. Her emotions flashed from distress to disbelief, crying one moment and laughing the next.

“I’ve been here since 1989,” she said. “That’s my whole life right there, and now it’s burned up.”

When her boyfriend, Vince Graffagnini, called her about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday to tell her the chimney was on fire, she was in Medical Lake trick-or-treating with her two children, ages 10 and 11. She raced home to 16810 Malloy Prairie Road, beating the volunteer Spokane County Fire District 3 firefighters.

It took crews 15 minutes to get to the rural home southwest of Medical Lake, Deputy Chief Brian Anderson said. In that time, the fire spread from the attic to the top floor, even as Graffagnini tried to fend it off with a garden hose.

Graffagnini was the only person home when the fire broke out. He had just watered his horse and built a fire in the fireplace.

About to join the rest of his family for some Halloween fun, he wanted the house to be warm when they returned to eat their candy, he said.

“I was sitting, listening to the radio, and it looked light outside,” Graffagnini said. “Went outside and the chimney was on fire.”

It took firefighters at least 45 minutes to tame the flames, Anderson said. The blaze destroyed the attic and smoked out the top floor; only the basement remained uncharred.

“All their belongings have smoke and water damage,” Anderson said, adding: “I think that home is pretty much totaled.”

Nobody was injured; three dogs, two cats and one horse escaped harm. At 8:45 p.m., the American Red Cross was on its way to help the family find shelter and get more clothes.

“The kids are in their Halloween costumes,” Anderson said. “They have to go to school tomorrow.”

The couple didn’t have anything irreplaceable, Graffagnini said.

Terry’s friends reminded her she has homeowner’s insurance, and it’s events like these that insurance is for.

“Allstate calls it ‘deluxe,’ ” Terry said. “I guess we’ll be pushing the envelope on it.”

Meanwhile, firefighters axed through crispy wooden beams and sprayed down hot spots, entering and exiting the front door under a blackened chandelier. One firefighter rolled up an unscathed American flag. The jack-o’-lanterns still glowed.

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