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Warehouse burns on West Plains

Wed., Aug. 31, 2011, 7:50 a.m.

Property owner Bob Yeager stands in front of the Geiger Boulevard warehouse that he built and which burned early today southwest of downtown Spokane.   (Mike Prager)
Property owner Bob Yeager stands in front of the Geiger Boulevard warehouse that he built and which burned early today southwest of downtown Spokane. (Mike Prager)

A warehouse off Geiger Boulevard southwest of downtown burned this morning, destroying a custom woodworking shop and space used for storage.

The 4 a.m. fire at 2006 S. Geiger Blvd. had been occupied for years by the owner, who built it himself to house his business of building spiral staircases.

Several of the finished staircases were in the parking lot.

Fire Chief Nick Scharff of District 10 said flames were shooting out of front windows when his crews arrived.

The fire apparently started inside the woodworking shop and may have been fueled in part by the finishes and other flammables typically stocked by wood shops, the chief said.

Geiger was closed from Lewis Street to Ball Road initially to make room for firetrucks and firefighting operations.

The fire was so hot that firefighters hooked up lines to two fire hydrants, including one that blocked early morning operations for the adjacent Spokane Produce Inc. for at least an hour. About 50 workers were delayed as well.

The extra water was needed so firefighters could attack it from both ends of the warehouse, the chief said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Property owner Bob Yeager said he built the warehouse himself over the years, doing a section at a time when he had enough money.

He operated his Spiral and Railing House for 40 years out of the building until moving to Lake Roosevelt four years ago.

“It’s like an old friend,” he said of the building. “That’s the worst part.”

He said his wife and children helped him in the construction. “My whole world is nothing but hard work,” Yeager said.

The woodworking shop was operated by Doss Spotts, a former artist and teacher who now specializes in fine cabinetry and other wood, said his wife Carole Spotts.

She said the business had some insurance, but she is concerned about the level of coverage.

The business had struggled with the economic recession in 2008 and 2009, but was recently gaining new clients for custom kitchens, she said.

“Things had just turned around for him,” Carole Spotts said.

He had recently purchased a quantity of wood for the jobs.

Nearly 40 firefighters in 10 fire rigs responded to the blaze. No injuries were reported.

Residents of a nearby home and their horses were briefly evacuated when the fire started to burn in grass and brush on the adjacent hillside. Firefighters quickly gained control of that part of the fire.

The fire caused the roof over the woodworking shop to collapse on the southwest end of the building.

By 8 a.m., firefighters were trying to extinguish a smoldering fire contained in a heap on the floor of the building. They took turns with the work, resting in between bouts with the fire.

“We’re rotating crews,” Scharff said.

Geiger Boulevard was open to one lane of traffic after 8 a.m.

Red Cross volunteers arrived about 8:30 a.m. to provide food, coffee and other drinks to firefighters.

Crews from District 3 and Airway Heights joined in the effort.

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