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Dog credited with waking man and preventing apartment fire

The great thing about dogs is they don’t require batteries.

When a Spokane Valley man fell asleep while cooking some food and his apartment filled with smoke about 1 a.m. Sunday, his smoke detector didn’t go off. Fortunately, his dog did.

The man was able to get the burning food off the stove before it ignited kitchen cabinets in his apartment at 12204 E. Fourth Ave. Spokane Valley firefighters used fans to ventilate the apartment, which sustained only smoke damage.

Fire Marshal Kevin Miller said the apartment’s smoke detector likely had a dead battery. He said battery-only smoke alarms are allowed in some older apartments, but new construction requires detectors to use both house current and batteries.

A Millwood family wasn’t so fortunate later Sunday when rags soaked in mineral spirits spontaneously caught fire and destroyed a detached garage at 3200 N. Butler Road. The loss was estimated at $50,000.

Miller said the family wasn’t home when firefighters were called at 4:45 p.m.

The residents had been staining furniture, and left their soaked rags in a pile. While petroleum products don’t catch fire by themselves, mineral spirits can, Miller said.

“It can happen in three hours,” he said. “I would say most of them are an overnight deal.”

Businesses are required to keep their mineral spirit-soaked rags in a closed metal box to keep out the oxygen needed for combustion. Individuals should spread their rags outdoors, away from buildings, Miller advised.

A deck at 900 N. Girard Road in Millwood sustained an estimated $500 damage last Saturday.

“Once again, it’s a fire in a potted plant,” Miller said. “We’ve had a slug of these, and people just don’t get it.”

People find it hard to believe, but potting soil contains wood fiber and catches fire when people put out their cigarettes in it. Miller said the Spokane Valley Fire Department has responded to dozens of such fires in the past several years, “some of which have gone on to burn down whole buildings.”

Perhaps the most expensive fire occurred about 1 p.m. July 31 when a large front-end loader was destroyed by fire at the Inland Empire Paper mill at 3320 N. Argonne Road in Millwood.

“It was a great big one,” the largest the investigating officer had ever seen, and the loss was estimated at $350,000, Miller said.

He said the fire was caused by wood chips in the engine compartment. The equipment operator wasn’t able to reach the flames with a fire extinguisher and, “by the time he got help, it was really cooking,” Miller said.

Paper mill employees had hooked a hose to a fire hydrant by the time firefighters arrived and took over. Miller said the loader was under an awning that was scorched a bit, but the mill building otherwise was undamaged.

He said firefighters responded to four recreational fires that were banned June 30 for the rest of the summer.

A car parked at the Spokane Valley Mall Tuesday evening was believed to have been a total loss when a fire gutted the engine compartment.

Ten of a dozen vehicle accidents caused no injury, and injuries were slight in two others. In one case, a girl’s leg was hurt when a slow-moving vehicle hit her at the Spokane Valley Mall Wednesday afternoon. In another, Miller said a man apparently suffered only a bruise over his eye when his vehicle ran off Interstate 90 and rolled about 12:45 a.m. Tuesday.

“Anytime you’re going 70 and get ejected from the car, you’re lucky to survive that,” Miller said.

He said alcohol was involved; seat belt use wasn’t.

Ten automatic alarms were caused by malfunctions, and another was triggered by spray-painting at the Spokane Valley Mall.

Three calls for general service included a check on the welfare of a young couple sleeping beside the road in the 8900 block of East Upriver Drive about 9 p.m. July 30. Miller said the couple reported they had been robbed and had no transportation, so firefighters used their union benevolent fund to get them a taxi.

In all, the department responded to 226 calls, 167 of which were for emergency medical service.