August 22, 2009 in Washington Voices

Quick lift from air bags helps horse-trailer operator

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Spokane Valley Fire Department rescued a cat from inside a wall and gave some horses a lift in the past week.

Firefighters used Kevlar air bags to lift a horse trailer that had two flat tires on the same side while being towed by a semitractor on Interstate 90 shortly after 3 a.m. last Saturday.

“They’re a great tool,” Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford said. “They’re fairly expensive and a lot of departments don’t carry them, but they sure help in a situation like this on the freeway.”

He said the disabled trailer was carrying four horses to a rodeo in Sandpoint, and they were able to stay inside the trailer while the owner changed the tires. Ordinarily, the owner would have had to unload the horses or call a tow truck, Clifford said.

He said firefighters put an air bag on top of a stack of crisscrossed timbers and inflated the bag with a breathing-mask oxygen tank. With 4,500 pounds of air per square inch, the tanks have plenty of power for an oversize horse trailer.

A more typical use of the air bags is to lift wreckage off accident victims.

Later Saturday, at 11:15 a.m., firefighters were called to 10807 E. 32nd Ave. to get a cat out of a wall. Clifford didn’t know how the pet got inside the wall behind the home’s water heater, but – with permission from the landlord – firefighters cut a 10-by-18-inch hole in the wall and removed the uninjured feline.

The calls were among 207 to which the department responded in the reporting period that ended Wednesday night.

The department was called twice to back up sheriff’s deputies who were investigating suspected pipe bombs.

An apartment complex at 15615 E. Fourth Ave. was evacuated Monday when a cleaning crew found a piece of plastic pipe that was capped on both ends like a pipe bomb. The tube turned out to be a homemade device used to extract THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

“That’s probably the first time we’ve run into one of those,” Clifford said.

The other bomb scare was at 8:40 a.m. Aug. 13 at Budget Arbor and Logging Services, 12401 E. Trent Ave. Clifford had no information on that situation except that nothing blew up or caught fire.

He said firefighters responded to four minor structure fires, four illegal recreational or trash fires and a small brush fire Aug. 14 in the 4200 block of North Argonne Road caused by fireworks. Also, there were three vehicle engine fires, including one that occurred about 1:35 a.m. when a Jeep Laredo crashed into some parked cars in the 8000 block of Appleway Boulevard.

Clifford said 16 minor vehicle accidents sent five people to hospitals with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

In a hazardous-materials call, firefighters mopped up about 5 gallons of diesel fuel that a thief spilled while stealing about 140 gallons from a Freightliner truck at the Super 8 Motel, 2020 N. Argonne Road. The spill was reported shortly before 2 p.m. Aug. 13.

A half-dozen calls for general service included a seeping water main and a toilet water supply that flooded an apartment.

In addition, Clifford said, firefighters responded to 158 emergency medical calls and a dozen automatic alarms that were false or minor.

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