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Quick thinking saves lives in blazes

Fri., April 17, 2009

Son wakes mom in Spokane; dad pulls children from Valley home

Family members helped save three people from two early-morning house fires Thursday.

In Spokane Valley, a father saved his two small children and the family dog from their burning home. The blaze probably was caused by an electrical malfunction, officials said.

In Spokane’s West Central neighborhood, firefighters rescued a 51-year-old woman from the second-floor balcony of her home. Her 16-year-old son said he may have saved his mother’s life by calling her on her cell phone, apparently awakening her.

In the West Central fire, crews arrived at Karin Mustard’s home, 2317 W. Dean Ave., and found smoke coming from the second story. Mustard was trapped on the balcony at least 12 feet up.

While one crew pulled an engine hose into the house to put out the fire, another crew placed a ladder to the front-facing balcony. Firefighters helped the woman climb down the ladder. She was treated by fire paramedics and taken to Deaconess Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation and possible burns to the face, officials said. She was later released.

The fire, which may have started from improperly discarded smoking material, was extinguished within minutes, and it’s cause remained under investigation Thursday. Firefighters said no operating smoke detectors were in the home.

While the fire was small, smoke inhalation can be deadly. The incident was a close call for Mustard, said Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

“This lady had minutes,” he said.

Mustard’s son, Sean Mustard, awakened to water dripping from the second story and called his mother, waking her up.

“She was bawling on the phone, ‘The house is on fire,’ ” he said.

She called 911 and told dispatchers she couldn’t get out of her bedroom to escape.

Sean Mustard said he tried twice to go up the stairs but was forced down by smoke. “I couldn’t even breathe,” he said. He called 911, too, and reported heavy smoke and heat from the fire, officials said.

Sean helped evacuate family pets, including a dog and cats.

Six fire companies responded to the scene with 30 firefighters. The damage was estimated at $40,000.

In Spokane Valley, Jeremy Ovak, 814 S. Best Road, reportedly pulled out his 2-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son and the family dog from the 1:30 a.m. fire.

“The chances of them getting out of that fire were pretty slim if he didn’t get them out,” said Bill Clifford, spokesman for the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Ovak was taken to Valley Hospital and Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation and later released, said neighbor Clara Woodruff.

She said Ovak grew up in the home and has physical limitations that make the rescue even more remarkable.

“He’s one of the nicest men you would want to meet,” Woodruff said.

Firefighters said the fire started at an outlet in Ovak’s bedroom while he and the children were asleep. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze. Damage to the home was estimated at $50,000.

Ovak’s wife, Danielle, arrived home from her job while firefighters were working on the scene, officials said.

“I’m so sorry to see something like that happen to them,” said Woodruff. She said Ovak told her the home is insured.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or

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