January 10, 2009 in Washington Voices

Firefighters not amused by body-in-snow ruse

From staff reports
 

The outlook was grim when Spokane Valley firefighters responded to a call for emergency medical service shortly after noon Monday.

Dispatchers said to expect a “DOA” – someone dead on arrival. Motionless legs were protruding from a snow bank at 520 S. Bowdish Road.

All firefighters found, though, was stuffed jeans and tennis shoes.

“No extraction required,” said Deputy Fire Marshal Bill Clifford.

The homeowner agreed to take care of that. Clifford said firefighters asked the resident to remove the comical display to prevent more false alarms.

Later in the week, firefighters spotted a similar gag on Sprague Avenue. Clifford had no details on the second snow “death,” but he said firefighters weren’t fooled that time.

In general, firefighters and police take a dim view of hoaxes that cause unnecessary lights-and-siren responses – especially on icy roads. The Bowdish Road prankster was cooperative, but Clifford said a reprise would get a frosty review by an unamused investigator.

The dud DOA was among 190 emergency medical runs in the seven days that ended Wednesday night.

Tragically, there was a real DOA Tuesday evening. Firefighters were called to remove the body of a man whose Chevrolet Suburban was struck by a train when he parked it on the tracks at Trent Avenue and Idaho Road.

The apparent suicide was not counted among 23 vehicle accidents that sent three people to hospitals with minor injuries.

Firefighters responded to more collapsed or sagging roofs and other weather-related problems than fires in the past week. Clifford said downed and sagging electric lines accounted for eight of 20 “structure” calls.

Only one of the calls involved flames, and that was a chimney fire.

Clifford said no one was seriously injured Tuesday afternoon when a roof truss slipped while being installed in an approximately 30-by-60-foot building under construction at 19312 E. Nora Ave.

The accident set off a chain of dominoes that toppled most of the building’s trusses and damaged all of them. Two people were underneath when the trusses fell, but they declined medical treatment, Clifford said.

He said slick surfaces may have contributed to the accident, but the cause hadn’t been determined.

In addition to emergency calls for two sagging roofs and a collapsed carport, fire inspectors responded to numerous requests for advice about sagging roofs.

Several flat roofs on commercial buildings in the 12300 block of East Mirabeau Parkway were safely shoveled Tuesday when they began to slump, Clifford said.

“They can flex a little bit,” he said. “They have to.”

Inspectors found snow loads in the neighborhood of 20 pounds per square foot, well below the 30- to 40-pound danger zone, Clifford said.

Except for two burned meals, all of 17 automatic alarms were weather related. Sliding snow and water leaks set off most of the alarms, Clifford said.

He said firefighters were called to the Walgreens store at Sprague and Sullivan Road five times in the past week because of a Dec. 27 roof collapse at the Dollar Store next door.

The stores are in the same building and share a fire sprinkler system that triggered false alarms, Clifford said.

Weather also contributed heavily to eight hazardous-materials calls and five requests for general service.

Clifford said all of the hazmat calls sprang from natural gas odors, and half of them involved minor leaks caused by falling snow or snow plows striking gas lines on private property.

About 3:20 a.m. Saturday, water – possibly from a ruptured water line – quickly iced up the 22700 block of East Country Vista Drive. Firefighters stood by until a Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District crew arrived.

A broken water main at Broadway Avenue and Fancher Road caused only minor traffic delays.

Water poured out of a vacant Otis Orchards home Sunday, but firefighters shut it off when a neighbor let them in the house.

On Monday, firefighters helped a man whose motorized wheelchair got stuck outside his apartment building.

As usual, there was a set of car keys on the wrong side of a locked door. But there was no child trapped in the vehicle this time.

“We rescued the keys and the person was on his way,” Clifford said.

There was only one vehicle fire in the past week, but it may have wiped out more shoes than all the slushy parking lots in Spokane Valley.

Clifford said a semi-trailer full of shoes was extensively damaged by fire and smoke about 12:10 a.m. Sunday. The fire apparently was caused by a tire that overheated when its dual partner blew out on Interstate 90 near the Evergreen exit.

The truck owner and his driving partner tried unsuccessfully to smother the fire with an extinguisher, which they discovered after pulling off the freeway to change the blown tire.

They separated the tractor from the trailer before firefighters arrived, but the fire was confined to the back half of the trailer.

The extent of the loss was under investigation, Clifford said.


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