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Fires, intoxicated rivergoer keep crews occupied

Sat., Aug. 27, 2011

A long list of brush fires and suspicious fires topped the week of Aug. 18-24 for crews with the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

“We don’t know how they started,” said Bill Clifford, assistant fire marshal. Anyone with information on any of the fires is asked to call the department at (509) 928-1700. Rewards may be available, Clifford said.

A vacant house in the 7200 block of East Boone Avenue caught on fire on Aug. 21. The house has been vacant for years, Clifford said. “In the past few years we’ve had, I think, three incidents at this house with children playing with matches,” he said. Neighbors have seen people coming and going from the house at all hours. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined yet, Clifford said.

Someone set fire to a paper towel dispenser in a bathroom in Browns Park at Pines Road and 32nd Avenue on Aug. 23. A truck was discovered fully aflame next to the road on East Wellesley Avenue near Fire Station 4 on Aug. 19. No one was around the truck when crews arrived and the fire is considered suspicious, Clifford said.

Several brush fires were reported that also are considered suspicious. A slow-moving grass fire was put out in the 13600 block of East 32nd Avenue on Aug. 21. A grass fire was found in the 19000 block of East Montgomery Avenue on Aug. 23. A fire was set in the 24500 block of East Tum Tum Drive in Liberty Lake on Aug. 24. A larger brush fire was reported at Saltese Road and Sullivan on Aug. 24. “There were three teenage males seen in the area and leaving just before the fire was reported,” Clifford said. “There was some burnt-up cigarette boxes found in the area.”

Some of the reported fires, however, had easily identifiable causes. A construction crew was cutting and grinding metal in a vacant lot in the 1600 block of North Signal Drive in Liberty Lake on Aug. 18. Flying sparks set the dry grass on fire, but the construction crews used water and shovels to put it out before crews arrived, Clifford said.

A house in the 300 block of North Long Road sustained $25,000 in damage after someone left a candle burning unattended on Aug. 21. A vehicle was totaled in a fire in the 1100 block of North Long Road on Aug. 20. The fire is still under investigation but may have been caused by a dropped cigarette, Clifford said.

One man was rescued from the Spokane River on Aug. 20. People called 911 just after 4 p.m. to report that a man was lying on a tube in the water near shore near Barker Road. They told dispatchers they couldn’t rouse the man and he was possibly intoxicated. “Boy, was he,” said Clifford. “He told our crews he had a 12-pack (of beer) and a few shots.”

Paramedics had difficulty waking the man, who couldn’t walk and had slurred speech. He was treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration, Clifford said. “There’s not much you can do with intoxication except sleep it off,” he said.

The man was sent home in a cab, but the situation could have ended very badly, Clifford said. “He could have drowned right there,” he said. “It was extremely hot that day. If nobody saw him, he could have died of heat exhaustion.”

Crews also responded to 180 EMS calls and 18 car accidents. The worst accident of the week was caused by a car involved in a police chase. The car was driving at high speeds south on Flora Road when it hit a truck at Flora and Trent Avenue, Clifford said. “Their vehicle ended up rolling across Trent, onto Flora and onto the railroad tracks,” he said.

All three people inside were taken to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, Clifford said. It took crews two and a half hours to clean up the mess. “We had to call the railroad and have that shut down,” he said.

A resident in the 12400 block of East 31st Avenue caused a stir when he called 911 to report finding an unknown white powder in his mailbox on Aug. 19. The U.S. Postal Service sent an investigator out to test the substance, Clifford said. It turned out to be rodent poison. It is unknown who put the poison there.

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