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 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 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.”
“My kids are alive,” she said. “That’s all I care about.”
Mike Mallory said he had been working on his car when he smelled gasoline. Unable to shut off the engine, Mallory told his wife and stepgrandchildren to get out of the home. But they returned after he stopped the engine by removing a battery cable.
Then he reattached the battery cable intending to drive the car 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.”
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 St., was largely gone later in the evening. The other half, at 918 S. Dickey St., was damaged.