No one was injured Thursday evening when an explosion blew the garage out from under a Spokane Valley duplex and torched the unit with 30-foot flames – not even the man who accidentally triggered the explosion.
“The windows blew plumb out to the street,” said Mike Mallory, who was in the middle of a blast that shook houses for blocks around the duplex at East 10th Avenue and South Dickey Road. “Everything in the house disintegrated.”
Fortunately, Mallory said, the upstairs portion of the unit wasn’t immediately damaged as much as the garage, where he had been working on a car that was leaking gasoline. His wife, Patricia Mallory, and their grandchildren escaped safely before their half of the duplex was consumed by fire.
Spokane Valley Deputy Fire Marshal Bill Clifford could speculate only that the force of the explosion was focused away from Mallory.
“When it blew, I just ran,” Mallory said. “I just ran straight to the street.”
The children’s parents, Tracy and Jodi Warn, had been grocery shopping when the explosion happened. They found out about it when they drove home about 6:20 p.m. and saw the inferno.
“Everyone was just hysterical,” Tracy Warn said. “I was just so worried that something happened to our kids.”
By that time, neighbors had taken 7-year-old Tristan and 9-year-old Regan under their wings.
“My kids are alive,” Tracy Warn said. “That’s all I care about.”
Although no one was injured, Clifford said a firefighter slipped on ice and was taken to a hospital with a shoulder injury.
Mike Mallory said he had been working on his car when he smelled gasoline. Unable to shut off the engine, Mallory ran upstairs and told his wife and step-grandchildren to get out of the home. But they returned after he stopped the engine by removing a battery cable.
Mallory said his wife wanted him to get the car out of the garage, so he reattached the battery cable intending to drive it out. Instead, he caused a spark that ignited the vapors.
“I wasn’t thinking,” he said.
The explosion shook David Leestma’s house some 200 yards away on East Ninth Avenue.
“I felt the whole ground shake,” Leestma said. “Then I looked out my porch and saw 30 feet of flames shoot up. It went up pretty quick.”
Heather Villarreal said she heard a “huge explosion” from her home in a separate duplex building next door to the one that was destroyed.
No information was immediately available on the family that lived in the other half of the duplex that burned, but Clifford said no one was there when firefighters arrived shortly after 5 p.m.
The half where the explosion occurred, at 920 S. Dickey, was largely gone later in the evening. The other half, at 918 S. Dickey, seemed relatively undamaged from the outside, but Clifford said there was “a lot of fire in there, too.”
“My kids are alive and I’m happy,” Tracy Warn said, “but we spent eight years building our lives and it all went up in flames.”
Warn said he is working on an associate of arts degree at Spokane Falls Community College and hopes to transfer to Eastern Washington University for a bachelor’s degree. His wife works as a medical assistant.
Patricia Mallory said she had just paid the premium Thursday on a renter’s insurance policy that should cover her son and daughter-in-law’s belongings as well as hers. She said she had thought about letting the policy lapse to save money but thought better of it.
Red Cross representatives were on hand to assess the family’s needs.