December 9, 2009 in City

Stubborn cold hangs on

Series of small fires related to deep freeze
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

U.S. Postal Service carrier Patrick Neagle fights off the frigid temperatures as he makes his mail deliveries near the corner of Cincinnati Street and Providence Avenue on Tuesday. Neagle says he keeps his face covered with a cotton mask because it doesn’t itch and because his wife won’t let him grow a beard.
(Full-size photo)

Hot tips

Firefighters caution residents to keep flammable materials away from space heaters and not to overload electrical circuits. Also, they warn against using propane torches to thaw pipes because they can ignite building material.

Arctic cold that refuses to go away apparently was a factor in a string of fires in the past few days in the Spokane region, officials said Tuesday.

As the temperature drops to near zero, people turn to heating appliances for warmth and electrical circuits get overloaded.

Forecasters said the region can expect at least one more night of frigid weather. A low of 4 was forecast for this morning in Spokane and 3 degrees in Coeur d’Alene. Lows tonight should also fall to the single digits.

The low Tuesday morning was 2 degrees in Spokane.

Firefighters from Spokane County Fire Protection District No. 4 ran from fire to fire Monday night and Tuesday.

Pat Humphries, public information officer for the district, said a space heater on an enclosed porch apparently started a fire at a manufactured home at 24324 N. Elk-Chattaroy Road on Tuesday morning. The fire was contained to the porch.

A fire was reported in another manufactured home at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday at 27509 N. Spotted Road in the Deer Park area. It was apparently caused by a heat lamp being used to keep pets warm.

An electrical malfunction was being examined as a possible cause in a travel trailer fire at 11 p.m. Monday at 21912 N. Travis Road near Mount Spokane.

Flowers by Melo’s D at 12 W. Crawford St. in Deer Park suffered damage to the attic in a 5:30 p.m. fire on Monday. Electrical wiring is being examined in the search for a cause, he said.

Firefighting is a challenge in the cold, fire officials said. Hoses can ice up and the ground becomes dangerously slick. Firefighters are physically taxed by the contrast between a hot and steamy fire scene and the frigid outdoor air.

The American Red Cross in Spokane was assisting a family of four burned out of their duplex units in a fire early Tuesday at 1322 S. Robin Hood Road in Spokane Valley.

Spokane Valley firefighters were called to the residence about 5:45 a.m., and arrived to find smoke and flames shooting from the front door. The fire was believed to have originated in the basement, caused by faulty wiring, said Bill Clifford, Spokane Valley Fire Department spokesman.

Clifford said Spokane Valley crews responded to more than 30 calls for service on Tuesday, some of them related to frozen pipes and other cold-weather emergencies.

“It’s definitely been a busy day so far,” Clifford said, and he anticipated it would get busier as frigid temperatures persist over the next few days.

In Spokane, a garage fire Monday at 603 S. Ralph St. in Spokane was blamed on an improperly installed wood heating unit.

The city of Spokane activated emergency warming centers at the Salvation Army and House of Charity on Tuesday night.

Forecasters said the region is likely to see snow Saturday through Monday, but accumulations are uncertain. Computer forecast models show the heaviest precipitation Saturday and Sunday will fall south of Spokane.

A changing weather pattern on Monday and a subtropical warm front arriving on Tuesday could initially bring snow to northeast Washington and North Idaho before switching to rain. The milder weather is expected to replace the arctic cold.

The high Tuesday could reach the upper 30s, which is above normal for mid-December.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email