November 20, 2010 in Washington Voices

‘Nasty’ house fire blamed on mishandled hot ashes

By The Spokesman-Review

A Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter enters a home in the 4300 block of North Harvard Road Nov. 8 after a fire caused by hot ashes was extinguished.
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Map of this story's location

A home in the 4300 block of North Harvard Road sustained $150,000 in damage Nov. 8 after hot ashes from a wood stove sparked a fire.

“That was a nasty one,” said Bill Clifford, assistant fire marshal of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Apparently ashes were taken outside and placed next to a woodpile, which caught on fire and in turn spread the flames to the side of the house. It took crews 30 minutes to put out the flames. No one was home at the time of the fire. The homeowner has insurance, Clifford said.

During the two weeks from Nov. 4 to 17 the department responded to 13 fires having to do with problems with furnaces or chimney fires. One furnace fire reported in the 4900 block of North Glenbrook on Nov. 4 caused $25,000 in damage. “That’s not a small one,” Clifford said.

A man was working on his pickup truck, which had a fuel leak, in his garage in the 14100 block of East Desmet Avenue the afternoon of Nov. 14. He also had a propane heater going and the heater ignited the gasoline fumes, Clifford said. “The person who was working on the vehicle ended up getting his hands burned,” he said. The man was taken to the hospital for treatment.

There also were two small fires started by kitchen stoves. In one case a plastic spatula was left on the stovetop when the stove was turned on and it caught fire. “Why people put combustibles near stovetops, I don’t have any idea,” Clifford said.

A burning vehicle resulted in two calls for firefighters on Nov. 13. A man was driving home on Buckeye at 3 a.m. when he decided to take a shortcut to Euclid Avenue. “He high centered his vehicle on a pile of brush,” he said. “As he was trying to get it off of there, his vehicle caught the wood on fire and burned his vehicle up.”

The fire was put out and the man was arrested for driving under the influence, said Clifford. But some heat remained and firefighters were called back to the scene just before 8 a.m. to put out the rekindled fire.

Firefighters also responded to a couple of suspected natural gas leaks and found nothing. There was a confirmed leak in the 11700 block of East Alki Avenue on Nov. 9. “A resident was using a pick and shovel to bury their pet and hit their natural gas line,” Clifford said. Crews blocked off the area until Avista crews arrived to shut off the gas.

The four service calls during the two weeks were fairly uneventful. “Nobody locked outside of their vehicles this time,” Clifford said. Firefighters were called to help clean up a fuel spill when a resident called to report that he had scared away someone who was siphoning gas from his car and that some of the fuel had spilled.

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