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Heroes help when fire threatens children, homes

Sat., June 28, 2008

Spokane Valley firefighters encountered heroism and humor in 247 calls during the seven days that ended Wednesday.

Jon Higginson stood tall in the heroism column. The 29-year-old Marine reservist, recently returned from a second tour in Iraq, crawled through a smoke-filled apartment Tuesday night to rescue two toddlers.

One-year-old Trinity Burris and her brother, Tristan Burris, 3, suffered smoke inhalation but were in satisfactory condition a day later at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

The children’s mother had been in the shower when she saw smoke. She told investigators heat prevented her from reaching the children, so she and her boyfriend ran outside and called for help.

Higginson got in through a balcony door of the apartment at 12404 E. Eighth Ave. with help from two neighbors, 17-year-old Alex Suchanek and his stepfather, Brent Poutre.

All three are to receive the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s Outstanding Citizen Award in August, according to Deputy Fire Marshal Bill Clifford.

He said awards also will go to a couple of neighbors who used a garden hose on June 20 to put out a deck fire before it could spread to the house at 310 S. Liberty Drive, whose owners were away.

Clifford said some varnish rags caught fire spontaneously, igniting the deck. Rags soaked in combustible materials should be placed in a bucket of water, he suggested.

And don’t dispose of cigarettes in planters full of flammable potting soil, Clifford added. That’s what caused a 12:30 a.m. fire Tuesday on a balcony at the Central Park Condominiums, 6121 E. Sixth Ave.

About a half-hour later that morning, a plastic bowl on a stove burner caught fire in an apartment at 2718 N. Bowdish Road. Another bad idea.

What was believed Tuesday to be a hidden electrical fire because of the odor turned out to be a shorted electrical outlet. When firefighters arrived at 9518 E. Fourth Ave., they discovered a cat had urinated on the outlet.

The cat apparently suffered no ill effects, Clifford said.

Among three reported brush fires, two were minor and one was backyard barbecue.

Three not-so-hazardous materials calls turned out to be people spraying insecticide on fruit trees, hydraulic fluid on Sullivan Road and a household water leak.

Two of nine mostly unfounded alarm-system calls involved overcooked food in microwave ovens.

Other calls included 196 medical emergencies, 17 vehicle accidents and three requests for general service.

Three of the vehicle accidents involved motorcycles, two of which collided with larger vehicles.

The most serious injuries were sustained by a 29-year-old motorcyclist who ran off the road at 3603 N. Pit Road. He had a broken lower right leg, open fractures of his left ankle and elbow and a possible hip injury, Clifford said.

He said firefighters helped an elderly woman who couldn’t get into her home because of a sticky lock, and they helped some residents shut off their water when a line to a bathroom sink broke.

Also, Clifford said, firefighters helped a woman get into a different wheelchair when a dead battery made her electric-powered chair unusable.

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