Collapsed ceiling prompts call for firefighters

Crew lifts debris so man can climb out unaided

Firefighters freed a Spokane Valley man from a collapsed ceiling Tuesday.

A woman called for help about 9 p.m. when a 16-by-20-foot section of plasterboard fell on her husband, trapping him, in their home at 5320 N. Davis Road.

Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford said a crew lifted the debris and the uninjured man extricated himself.

“He was lucky,” Clifford said.

That much standard half-inch-thick plasterboard weighs 544 pounds, according to building industry sources.

No information was available on what caused the ceiling to fall.

No other extrication was required in the reporting week that ended Wednesday night, even though icy streets contributed to 15 vehicle crashes.

Clifford said most of the collisions were at low speed. Two people were sent to hospitals with minor injuries.

There were 176 general medical emergencies among the 243 calls the department answered.

Chimney fires accounted for six of 14 reported structure fires.

The most serious occurred about 2:20 p.m. Dec. 10 in a home at 12202 E. 10th Ave. Clifford said the fire spread into the attic, causing an estimated $25,000 worth of damage.

He said all the other chimney fires were “fairly minor.”

A suspicious fire shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday largely destroyed a detached garage and contents at the corner of First Avenue and Houk Street, behind Ron’s Drive-In on Sprague Avenue.

The fire remained under investigation later in the week.

One hazardous-materials call, for a natural gas leak at the Azteca restaurant near the Spokane Valley Mall, fizzled when firefighters found an Avista crew already at work when they arrived.

Most automatic alarms are false, but 11 of 23 in the past week were genuine water emergencies. Clifford said a rash of freeze-ruptured fire sprinkler pipes was detected by water-flow sensors.

Eleven calls for general service included two broken water mains and seven other water problems.

One of the broken mains, at Broadway and Pines shortly before 1 p.m. last Saturday, caused a lengthy closure of one of the northbound lanes of Pines.

Calls for general services also included a toddler left alone in a locked minivan in the Toys R Us parking lot at 15505 E. Broadway Ave.

Clifford said firefighters, who can open locked vehicles, were dispatched when a concerned witness reported the unattended child shortly before 11 a.m. Dec. 11.

The interior of the vehicle, which wasn’t running, was still warm although the caller said the approximately 3-year-old boy had been alone at least five minutes.

A few minutes after they arrived, firefighters contacted the child’s mother. Clifford said she told them the boy was sleeping when she decided to dash into the store.

Leaving such a young child unprotected, especially in cold weather, is a bad idea, Clifford said.

“What would have happened if she had gone into the store and had a medical issue – slipped and fallen and gone unconscious or whatever?” he asked.

“When we get there and send her to the hospital, that car would still be sitting outside for who knows how long.”

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