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Ten illegal fires reported

Sat., July 16, 2011

The Spokane Valley Fire Department didn’t respond to an overly large number of calls from June 30 to July 13, but an inordinately large number of calls were for fires large and small.

There were 10 illegal fires reported and two brush fires, one of them caused by fireworks. A witness saw a group of kids turn a corner in the 13200 block of East 28th Avenue on July 5. “All the sudden they heard some fireworks,” said Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford. “It caught some shrubbery on fire.”

The fire was close to a motor home and an apartment complex. “We had a quick response and a quick knockdown,” he said.

There were also two mobile homes destroyed by fire during those two weeks. The first was in the 900 block of North Bowman Road. The call came in at 4:37 p.m. on June 30. A cooking oil fire spread inside. The homeowner was able to evacuate, but got a deep laceration on his arm when he tried to break a window from the outside to spray the interior with a garden hose, Clifford said. “That one pretty much gutted the inside of the trailer,” he said.

The second mobile home fire was reported in the 4900 block of East Fourth Avenue shortly after 4 a.m. on July 13. It was a total loss. The 79-year-old homeowner, who awoke to find his home in flames, told firefighters that he had noticed an electrical outlet sparking a couple of weeks ago but had stopped using it. There was no way to determine if the faulty outlet started the fire, Clifford said. “There was too much destruction done,” he said.

A garage fire damaged a duplex at 5 a.m. on July 2 in the 1200 block of North Greenacres Road. The homeowner heard a popping noise from the garage and discovered flames when he went to investigate. Flames had burned through the garage roof by the time firefighters arrived. The damage was estimated at $75,000 and the cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, Clifford said.

A kitchen fire was reported just after 10 p.m. on July 3 in the 19200 block of East Buckeye Avenue. Someone was heating grease on the stove, Clifford said. “They heated it up too much and it caught on fire and spread to the cabinets,” he said.

Careless burning started a fire in the 6400 block of North Campbell Road just after 10:30 p.m. on July 3. “They were burning in a burn barrel that has been outlawed since the ’70s,” said Clifford. “That had gotten away from them and caught the grass on fire.”

A vehicle fire caused $8,000 in damage to a truck owned by a tree trimming business in the 4700 block of North Fruithill Road shortly before 4 p.m. on July 7. “It came in as a propane delivery truck fire,” Clifford said. “That had all of us scrambling. There was no propane involved, so we’re not sure where that came from.”

In one case a fire was started when someone dumped out still-warm ash from a barbecue that caught some brush on fire.

There were 298 EMS calls during the two weeks and three water rescue calls, which all turned out to be false alarms. On July 17 swift water rescue crews spent hours scouring the river for a teenager who had reportedly fallen off a tube before the search was called off because of darkness. Firefighters later learned that the teen had gotten out of the river and called his father for a ride home, where he had been the whole time.

It has not been the department’s policy to charge for false river rescue calls, Clifford said, but he urged people to let the department know if someone gets dumped in the river but is able to get out on their own. “Let us know that everybody is accounted for,” he said. “That way we’re not deploying all those resources that could be used somewhere else.”

There were 34 car accidents reported in the two weeks that sent 12 people to the hospital. The most spectacular of the accidents happened just before 3 p.m. July 5 at Trent Avenue and Fancher Road. A car driving north on Fancher reportedly lost its steering. The car swerved across oncoming traffic, hit a tree, hit a telephone pole with three transformers on it, flipped upside down and hit a flatbed truck, Clifford said.

“They got quite lucky,” Clifford said. “It had taken all the power lines down across the truck and the car.”

The two people in the car were able to crawl out of the wreck on their own and were taken to the hospital with critical but nonlife threatening injuries, Clifford said.

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