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Washington Voices

Poor weather keeps firefighters busy

With snow and ice come more alarms, car crashes and roadways that are hard to navigate

Bad weather always causes more problems for the Spokane Valley Fire Department and the two weeks ending Wednesday were no different. The department responded to 495 calls, many more than normal.

“Our alarm soundings go up and car accidents double or triple,” said Bill Clifford, assistant fire marshal.

There were 76 accidents reported, but most were slide-offs or low speed. “Most of those, if not all of those, were due to the weather,” Clifford said. Only 16 people had to be taken to the hospital with injuries, and none were life-threatening.

Firefighters responded to 29 buildings alarms, mostly caused by broken water pipes. Another dozen calls also involved broken water lines in homes and businesses.

When snowy weather hits, the department simply chains up the fire engines, but bad roads can impact response times, Clifford said. At times snow berms and/or parked cars narrow roads so much that it’s hard for people to pull over to let the engine by. “The main streets are not the problem, it’s the side streets that we have problems with,” he said.

There was one significant fire on Thanksgiving Day, reported just before 2 p.m. in the 10600 block of East Eighth Avenue. An electrical fire started in the wall in the basement, but no one was home. By the time neighbors noticed smoke and flames the home had sustained $70,000 damage.

“She had two parrots that were in the house that were lost in the fire,” Clifford said. “She was quite distraught.” The woman had insurance and is being assisted by the Red Cross.

There were also three chimney fires reported and a small fire under a manufactured home that firefighters were able to stop before it spread to the living area. The department also helped two other fire districts with large fires under mutual aid agreements that allow fire departments to assist one another in emergencies.

Firefighters helped the Newman Lake Fire District with a house fire on Beach Drive on Nov. 24. They also helped with a major house fire in Rockford along with engines from Fire Districts 8 and 2 on Dec. 1.

A semi-truck’s load of creosote soaked timbers caught fire at 4300 E. Broadway Ave., on Nov. 30. A cutting torch used earlier had produced sparks which smoldered until the wood caught fire, Clifford said.

Firefighters had to use technical rescue equipment to transport an injured sledder from the bottom of the hill in Valley Mission Park on Nov. 27. She complained of neck and back pain after a crash, Clifford said. “The guys used a rope and pulley system to get her to the top,” he said.

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