July 5, 2009 in News

Kids fireworks turn into arson investigation

By The Spokesman-Review

Fireworks are believed to have caused a wild fire that forced officials to close part of Northwest Boulevard today after the blaze threatened at least one home.

The fire, reported about 5:30 p.m. in the 3900 block of Northwest Boulevard on the city’s west side, charred about five acres before being brought under control by Spokane firefighters, authorities said. Several homeowners in the area had grabbed garden hoses as the flames spread rapidly across a steep hillside.

A group of teenagers or young adults was seen lighting off fireworks at an observation lookout parking area along the scenic road, which overlooks the Bowl and Pitcher area of the Spokane River. Witnesses took down the license plate number of the vehicle as the youths jumped in the car and sped away, Spokane Police Senior Officer Frank Erhart said.

Erhart did not immediately want to identify the suspects.

“We want to let them sweat a bit and think they got away with it,” he said.

Wind pushed the fire towards the home of John and Dolores Skelton, who have lived in their home at 4011 W. Northwest Blvd. for the past 31 years. The couple spent the day golfing and Dolores was dozing when John Skelton went upstairs to get a cup of coffee.

“I saw smoke pouring this way and firefighters everywhere,” Skelton said. “I looked out the window and I saw flames shooting up 20 feet in the trees.”

Neighbors had already brought over garden hoses and Erhart also helped soak the area behind the Skelton’s home. Just as it appeared the fire was headed for the Skelton’s home, the wind shifted and pushed the fire back into the area that had already burned. Fire crews were then able to contain it.

“They took care of us. They did a great job,” Skelton said. “Everybody was working their tales off while we slept.”

Assistant Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said a crew will be left at the scene throughout the night as a precautionary move because a thunderstorm, packing winds up to 45 mph, is expected to roll through the region tonight, which could rekindle the blaze.

Fire crews also responded earlier Sunday to another brush fire on Indian Trail near the Spokane County landfill. That blaze burned a few acres, but no homes were threatened. Fireworks also caused that fire.

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