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Washington Voices

Firefighters make 460 responses

Sat., June 6, 2009, midnight

A river rescue was the most dramatic of 460 Spokane Valley Fire Department responses in a two-week period that ended Wednesday night.

Nearby residents called firefighters at 3:35 p.m. Sunday when they heard a 23-year-old Post Falls woman cry for help as she clung to the pilings of a temporary Barker Road bridge. The woman had been attempting to reach a channel along the north bank of the Spokane River when her vinyl raft lodged against the bridge.

Deputy Fire Marshal Bill Clifford said firefighters lowered a two-way radio, a life jacket and a safety helmet to the woman on a rope. Then they used chain saws to cut a 2-by-4-foot hole through thick wooden planks on the bridge surface.

Clifford said firefighters backed a 105-foot ladder truck onto the bridge and extended the ladder horizontally to reach the hole. They attached two rope-and-pulley systems to the end of the ladder – one for the woman and one for firefighter Dave Griffiths – and manually lowered Griffiths through the hole.

Griffiths harnessed the woman to her rope, and firefighters pulled them up together.

The rescue was completed about 5:30 p.m.

No rescue was necessary on May 22, when a canoe capsized downstream of the Sullivan Road Bridge. Clifford said the two male canoeists got ashore on their own.

After Sunday’s river rescue, a boy with his foot stuck between a pedal and the frame of his bicycle Wednesday morning was “too easy,” Clifford joked.

He said firefighters removed the back wheel from the bicycle, spun the pedal backward and freed the boy’s foot.

He said firefighters “reassembled the bike and left him in the care of his mother” at their home in the 1900 block of South Vercler Road.

Twenty-six reports of structure fires included a burning portable toilet at Chester Elementary School on Memorial Day.

Clifford asked citizens to be on the lookout for a 15- to 17-year-old boy neighbors saw entering the toilet less than an hour before it burned. He wore a brown trench coat, a tie-dyed undershirt and a neon blue or green beanie.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at (509) 242-TIPS or the fire department at (509) 928-1700.

No one was injured Tuesday morning when a resident at 19223 E. Nixon Ave. removed the lid from a pan of overheated cooking oil, providing oxygen for a flash fire. The kitchen floor, sink and window coverings were damaged when the resident carried the pan to the sink and put water on it.

Better to use a fire extinguisher or put the lid back on the pan and turn off the burner, Clifford said.

Two other fires remained under investigation late this week.

One, on May 27, destroyed three vehicles and damaged a carport and a building at the River Rock Apartments, 12721 E. Shannon Ave. Clifford said the fire started in a pickup and spread to two cars. The vehicles were valued at $20,000, and the apartment complex sustained an estimated $17,000 worth of damage.

Another fire, on May 22, caused an estimated $90,000 to a house at 12802 E. Fourth Ave. Clifford said the house was vacant and being repainted for a new tenant when the kitchen area caught fire.

In other calls, firefighters responded to 346 medical emergencies, six reports of brush fires that turned out to be legal recreation fires or illegal yard-waste fires and 22 automatic alarms that were false or minor.

Also, there were five vehicle fires, eight minor hazardous-materials calls and 32 vehicle accidents in which 14 people were taken to hospitals with moderate to severe injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

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