Fires forced three Spokane Valley families out of their homes this week, but no one was seriously injured.
Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford said three adults and two children may owe their lives to a passerby who knocked on their door at 4 a.m. Wednesday to let them know their house was on fire.
The sleeping occupants of the home at 8407 E. Knox Ave. told firefighters they didn’t hear smoke alarms. Investigators don’t know whether the alarms were working.
When firefighters arrived, fire and heavy smoke were coming out of the roof.
Clifford said a chimney failure caused the fire, which resulted in an estimated $200,000 damage to the home and contents.
“Without assistance from this citizen (who saw the fire while going to work), the outcome could have been much worse,” Clifford said.
He urged residents to have their chimneys inspected annually.
Three other families were driven from their homes by fires on Tuesday.
The first was reported at 9:42 a.m. in a second-story apartment at 11910 E. Broadway Ave. The fire shattered a sliding glass door, exposing the eaves to flames that entered the building’s attic.
Capt. Jeff Bordwell said the 48-year-old resident got her 4-year-old grandson to safety and went back for her dog. He urged people not to go back into burning buildings when human life is no longer at stake.
Whether through the woman’s efforts or its own, the Chihuahua service dog escaped the apartment and ran loose on Broadway, Bordwell said.
He said the dog refused to come to anyone at first, but eventually calmed down and returned to its owner.
“We just had too much excitement going on,” he said.
The fire destroyed the master bedroom, and the rest of the apartment sustained heavy smoke damage. Water from fire hoses forced another family out of a downstairs apartment.
Bordwell said the fire took about 20 minutes to control.
Two hours later, at 11:41 a.m., another fire was reported in a house at 3522 N. Park Road. Bordwell said the owner had just returned and found smoke coming through a hole in the side of the house.
Firefighters found a fire in the basement that had risen to the attic through a wall. Bordwell said the basement had minor damage, but the attic was heavily damaged.
Two cats were found unharmed when the fire was extinguished.
Bordwell said both of Tuesday’s fires remain under investigation.
The home fires were among eight structure fires in the reporting period that ended Wednesday night. In all, the Spokane Valley Fire Department responded to 197 calls.
Clifford said there were 155 medical emergencies; three reports of vehicle fires, only one of which was an actual fire; 15 vehicle collisions; one hazardous-materials call, for a natural gas leak; three trash fires; three calls for general service and nine false automatic alarms.
Spokeswoman Meghan Snow said the Inland Northwest Red Cross helped the fire-displaced families with temporary housing and clothing. She said houses that burned were covered by insurance, but the apartment resident who was burned out had no insurance.
Home fires typically increase in fall and winter, and “any donations are very much appreciated as we move into our busy season,” Snow said.
Donations to the Red Cross may be sent to 315 W. Nora Ave., Spokane, WA 99205. Snow said donations also may be made through the organization’s Web site, www.spokanered cross.org, or by calling (509) 326-3330.