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Friends come to rescue

Sat., March 28, 2009

Pals free man trapped under car

Spokane Valley firefighters saw some of the best and the worst of human nature in the past week.

Shortly before 4 p.m. last Saturday firefighters were called to 14203 E. Springfield Ave. to rescue a 32-year-old man who was trapped under a car when a jack gave way. Before they arrived, though, two of the man’s friends had lifted the car off him and pulled him to safety.

“It sounds like they just lifted it up,” Deputy Fire Marshal Bill Clifford said. “I don’t know how they did that.”

He intends to find out, though, and nominate the men for the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s citizen life-saver award.

Firefighter reports indicate the friends were inside the house when the accident occurred. The friends told firefighters they saw the victim working under the car and, about five minutes later, noticed it had fallen on him.

“Talking to the battalion chief, it sounds like, if his friends hadn’t found him, the outcome wouldn’t have been good,” Clifford said.

Firefighters found the man unresponsive and having difficulty breathing. His chest was bruised.

A day later, firefighters responded to a car-pedestrian accident in which a motorist sped away, leaving a critically injured man on the pavement.

The victim, in his early 20s, was struck from behind about 10:30 p.m. while walking with a friend in the 10000 block of East Mission Avenue, which is a residential area. Clifford said firefighters reported the man had been thrown about 25 feet and suffered abrasions “to some degree just about everywhere” on his body.

Spokane Valley police said the impact knocked the man out of his shoes.

Clifford said the man’s friend flagged down a passing ambulance.

“Mission is a common place for them to travel,” he said, noting Valley Hospital and Medical Center is at 12606 E. Mission Ave.

The victim was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center, which is the area’s designated trauma hospital this week. Later in the week, his condition was upgraded from critical to serious.

Police quickly found the suspect vehicle, a 1994 Chevrolet Blazer, at an apartment complex in the 11000 block of East Augusta Avenue and arrested 27-year-old Gregory E. Sutton. Officers said Sutton had been drinking and driving with a suspended license, both of which were violations of his state Department of Corrections supervised probation.

The hit-and-run was among 12 vehicle accidents that sent four people to hospitals, mostly with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

Clifford said there were six reports of structure fires among 209 fire department calls in the seven days that ended Wednesday night, including one in which two boys tried to burn an American flag that was on display outside a home.

The incident occurred about 9:45 p.m. at 5118 E. Fifth Ave., Clifford said. A neighbor told firefighters she saw two boys run away after trying to set the flag afire. Only a corner of the flag burned, Clifford said.

He urged anyone with information about that incident or another, in which someone set fire to the contents of a Lions Club newspaper collection box, to call the fire department at (509) 928-1700.

The newspaper box fire occurred shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Denny’s restaurant at 2022 N. Argonne Road. Clifford said a customer reported the fire to the restaurant manager, who knocked it down with a portable extinguisher. The box was undamaged.

Another fire was put out by a business employee with a portable extinguisher on March 20, but a home was destroyed. It belonged to a bird.

Clifford said the nest was imprudently built atop a light fixture outside the Fashion Bug shop at 15735 E. Broadway Ave., and the lamp ignited the straw.

He speculated that the nest may have been unoccupied.

“At this time of year, I don’t know if birds are laying eggs or not,” Clifford said. “It could have been left over from last year.”

In any event, he said firefighters didn’t report finding any cooked poultry or “fried eggs on the sidewalk.”

Three hazardous-materials calls included a five-hour incident Wednesday at the garbage transfer station at 3941 N. Sullivan Road.

Clifford said workers were loading a trailer when they noticed what appeared to be smoke from a fire in the garbage. The workers spread out the garbage and applied water, but the “smoke” seemed to intensify, so they evacuated the area and called the fire department.

Spokane Valley firefighters determined that a dust cloud was coming from a clear bag with a yellowish powder inside, so they summoned the Spokane Fire Department hazmat team. Clifford said the Spokane team donned protective suits and tested the suspicious material, concluding it wasn’t hazardous.

The bag containing the suspicious powder wasn’t marked and the field tests couldn’t identify the substance. Clifford said officials planned to have the material analyzed by a chemist at the regional garbage incinerator.

Firefighters also responded to 172 calls for emergency medical service, 14 false or minor automatic alarms and one young child locked inside a vehicle.

John Craig may be contacted at

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