January 29, 2011 in Washington Voices

Rental house a total loss after candle causes fire

Freezing weather a factor in some reports
By The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Valley Fire Department responded to a fire in the 200 block of North Union Road Jan. 22. The fire was caused by a candle placed too close to combustibles. The rental house was a total loss.
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Map of this story's location

The Spokane Valley Fire Department battled late night fires two times this week. A business sustained minor damage while a rental home was a total loss.

Firefighters were called to a home in the 200 block of North Union Road just after 9 p.m. on Jan. 23. Neighbors said they heard a noise and looked outside. “At that point they saw fire rolling out of the garage door,” said Bill Clifford, assistant fire marshal

The chilly weather that night added a bit of risk to the firefighting efforts. “We had water freezing on the ground and everything,” Clifford said. “You really have to be careful when you’re on the asphalt because it turns into an ice skating rink.”

Clifford said it appears that there was a spill of some sort on a bed and one of the residents flung back the covers. “She accidentally wrapped a candle that was in the bedroom into the bedding and that’s what caught it on fire,” he said.

People are cautioned to be extremely careful with burning candles. “We see so many fires each year caused by candles,” Clifford said. The home was a total loss and the residents did not have renters insurance, he said.

The second major fire was reported by a Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy at Premier Lumber at 25170 E. Kildea Ave. just after midnight on Jan. 25. The deputy reported seeing flames coming from a sawdust hopper and an enclosed area that housed a large truck. The truck was a total loss and there was minor damage to the building and hopper, Clifford said.

The fire appears to have been caused by an engine block heater in the truck, Clifford said. The total amount of estimated damages is $30,000.

Other fires during the week of Jan. 20-26 include a cooking oil fire in the 9800 block of East Sixth Avenue the afternoon of Jan. 23. A caller reported a Christmas tree burning in the middle of the road in the 300 block of South Pierce Road at 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 23. Firefighters found only a small pile of smoldering ashes and what was left of a tree trunk, Clifford said. “I’m sure it was kids playing around,” he said.

There were 176 EMS calls during the week and 21 car accidents. Seven of those accidents were reported during freezing rain the morning of Jan. 21. The freezing rain was also responsible for a broken fire hydrant. “A semi went around the corner and took it out,” Clifford said.

The accident occurred in the 7500 block of East 19th Avenue. Fire hydrants in Spokane Valley are dry hydrants, which means they have a valve that shuts off water when it’s not in use so if a hydrant is damaged, it won’t leak. But it didn’t quite work as expected in this case.

“They way that they hit that, it was flowing water,” Clifford said. “It affected the valve under the ground, which turned it into a gusher. That all had to be dug up and repaired.”

Hazardous materials calls included a broken residential gas line and a homeowner reporting a strange odor. It turned out to be a malfunctioning electrical outlet that started a small fire in the wall, Clifford said. Firefighters were able to use a thermal imaging camera to find the hot spot in the wall and put out the fire.

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