Helicopter crash, fires keep firefighters busy


Several house fires and a helicopter crash marked a busy two weeks for the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

A small helicopter crashed into a backyard near Felts Field on Wednesday after apparently experiencing mechanical problems, said assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford. “Bystanders stated they heard some engine malfunctions,” Clifford said.

Firefighters had little to do, however, as the pilot of the helicopter was already dead when they arrived. They turned the scene over to police and FAA investigators. “They made sure the fuel was turned off,” Clifford said. “It was smashed. It was just a tiny two-seater.”

The first of several house fires was on May 25 in the 200 block of South Ashton Road at 3:06 p.m. There was heavy fire and smoke coming out the roof when firefighters arrived, Clifford said. The fire required 20 firefighters to extinguish and caused heavy damage estimated at $90,000. It appears the fire started on the outside of the home and spread into the attic. The cause is under investigation.

The next day the department was called to a trailer fire in the Flamingo Trailer Court at 17611 E. Appleway at 5:49 a.m. Residents lost power and smelled smoke and were able to leave the home safely. “This one was a total loss,” Clifford said. “It’s an old trailer.” The fire was caused by a faulty furnace.

Later that day firefighters responded to a house fire in District 9 at 4920 N. Argonne Road, just outside Valley Fire’s boundaries. Clifford said he had little information on the blaze since it was outside the district and District 9 firefighters took the lead.

On May 28 a kitchen caught fire in the 8100 block of East Buckeye Avenue at 11:41 p.m. No one was home at the time and the cause is still under investigation, Clifford said. “The kitchen was well-involved in fire,” he said.

A lit candle left unattended sparked a basement fire in the 9600 block of East Nora Avenue on Wednesday. Three adults and six children live at the home. Only two adults and one child were home at the time of the fire and escaped safely, Clifford said. The feline residents, however, did not all escape. “There were three cats that died in the fire and one made it out safely,” he said.

During the last two weeks there were also three car engine compartment fires, a small illegal recreation fire, a lit cigarette that caused a pile of grass clippings to smolder and an illegal backyard fire. A natural gas leak launched a hazardous materials response and 24 vehicle accidents sent 10 people to the hospital. “We did have a couple significant crashes on I-90, but nobody was injured or they refused transportation,” Clifford said.

In addition to two calls involving children locked inside cars, firefighters responded four times to assist local police. On May 20 firefighters were called to the 17900 block of East First Avenue to stand by as the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office dealt with a possible bomb threat. Someone had found a cardboard box labeled “boom,” Clifford said. But there was apparently nothing to fear as firefighters were sent away after “nothing noteworthy occurred.”

On May 25 firefighters were called to help two tennis players who got locked inside the grounds of Agilent on Molter Road in Liberty Lake. “We went out with our keys and opened the gate for them,” Clifford said.

The other two calls involved sending ladder trucks to help police officers climb up on roofs to deal with trespassers at Harbor Freight near Sprague Avenue and Sullivan Road and also at the old Pratt Elementary on Fourth Avenue.

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