October 1, 2011 in City

Severe damage makes cause of Garland fire hard to find

By The Spokesman-Review

The gas meter outside Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle, 802 W. Garland Ave., was melted by the heat of Sunday night’s fire that damaged the Milk Bottle and Ferguson’s Cafe.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

The damage at Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle on Garland Avenue was so severe that the cause of Sunday night’s fire may never be determined, Spokane fire officials said Friday.

The blaze gutted the historic Milk Bottle, 802 W. Garland Ave., and the iconic Ferguson’s Cafe next door, and dealt a blow to the resurgent Garland business district.

Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the blaze started in a pile of combustible items, including cardboard, along the Milk Bottle’s west exterior wall and then spread to a gas line and meter nearby.

The heat from the 8:42 p.m. fire apparently breached the gas line at the meter, causing an explosion followed by an extremely hot and dangerous blaze for firefighters to control.

Schaeffer said one fire team fought back the gas fire and closed the meter valve. Then, Avista shut off the gas line at the street away from the fire.

But the damage caused by the burning gas has made it difficult to find evidence of the cause, he said.

“It may remain undetermined for quite some time,” Schaeffer said.

The fire came after several small suspicious fires were discovered in the Garland District in recent weeks. They were extinguished without serious damage.

“It’s a concern,” Schaeffer said, “but we haven’t found evidence that there was a crime involved” in the Sunday fire.

The Milk Bottle was built in 1935 as a retail outlet for Benewah Creamery.

Ferguson’s took over from the earlier Sander’s cafe, which dated to the 1930s. Ferguson’s was used in the filming of the Hollywood productions “Vision Quest,” “Benny & Joon” and “Why Would I Lie?”

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