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Investigators believe apartment fire was arson

Sat., May 8, 2010, 9:58 p.m.

An intentionally set fire early Saturday at a Spokane apartment building for seniors and people with disabilities sent seven people to a downtown Spokane hospital and displaced its 26 residents.

Officials say whoever is responsible for the blaze could face an arson charge as well as attempted manslaughter charges because the hottest part of the fire was in the apartment’s main exit.

The three-alarm fire at the two-story, 41-unit HiFumi En Apartments, 926 E. 8th Ave., is one of five fires reported there in the past three years, according to fire department logs.

About 1:30 a.m. Saturday, firefighters were called to the complex on a report of smoke. The first crews to arrive immediately called for more units to help evacuate the residents.

“Most of the residents had to be carried out,” said Spokane Fire Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer. Police were also on scene to help.

Firefighters quickly knocked down the blaze, according to a news release. While the fire was held to the ground floor common areas and the main hallway, it still did an estimated $40,000 in damage, fire officials said.

More than 60 fire firefighters responded to the blaze, as well as six ambulances from American Medical Response.

Of the seven people taken to the hospital, one was critically injured, two were seriously injured and four suffered minor injuries. Several of the hospitalized patients were treated and released, while the others are improving, fire officials said. Most of the residents received some level of medical treatment at the scene, according to a fire department news release.

The injuries included smoke inhalation and burns. Some residents had bumps and bruises from jumping out of their open windows to safety, officials said.

Residents were put up in a hotel on Saturday, and will not be able to return to their homes until significant repairs can be completed, fire officials said.

A fire in November 2007 was caused by lit incense that fell underneath a chair and out of the reach of a resident. Five suffered injuries in that blaze.

The apartment building, completed in 1973 as a residence for elderly Japanese, is not protected by an overhead sprinkler system. Fire codes do not require such systems, and would have prevented injuries to the residents as well as damage to the complex, Schaeffer said.


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