October 6, 2011 in City

Apartments fire displaces 18 on South Hill

By The Spokesman-Review

As many as 18 residents were burned out of their apartments this morning in a fire on Spokane’s lower South Hill.

The 5:18 a.m. fire started in an entryway in the basement level that did not have a door.

Firefighters quickly stopped the fire at 1314 W. Fifth Ave. after it spread into a floorboards and walls on the first floor and second floors. Smoke had penetrated throughout the building, and utility services were damaged, firefighters reported.

Tenant Dudley Adcox said that a resident who had been evicted two days ago had threatened to return and set the building on fire.

Adcox said he was asleep on his front room couch when he was awakened by the fire.

“The fire was right below me,” he said.

He said he quickly began yelling and pounding on other tenants’ doors to get them out safely.

“By the time I called the fire department and got everybody out, the blaze was really going,” he said.

The 1909 Craftsman-style building has seven apartments in three stories, he said.

Adcox said he saw a propane torch next to a pile of burning papers at the point where the fire started, which was just inside the entry to a laundry area.

Two days ago, two residents were evicted, and a sheriff’s deputy helped in the removal of the tenants, including the one who threatened to burn the building, he said.

The owner, identified by county records as Amy Harter and Eastside Funding LLC, had placed the property up for sale.

Adcox said that his boss, Rick Harter, was also involved in the ownership and has other real estate interests.

A foam-backed real estate sales sign had been slashed into two pieces. Adcox said the apparent defacement occurred sometime since the previous day.

Lt. Jimmy Bowen, a Spokane fire investigator, said he had not yet determined the cause of the fire but has not ruled out arson. He said he will be checking out statements from residents, including Adcox.

“I’m listening to everything everybody is telling me,” he said.

Red Cross volunteers were at the fire this morning helping residents with emergency housing and other needs such as clothing and food. The tenants included children in at least two of the families.

No injuries were reported. Damage was estimated at $10,000.

Firefighters had to search parts of the building to make sure all occupants were out of their apartments at the same time other firefighters fought the flames.

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