September 24, 2011 in Washington Voices

42 firefighters battle blast, fire at medical building

By The Spokesman-Review
Photo courtesy the Spokane Valley Fire Department photo

Spokane Valley firefighters work to put out a house fire in the 2500 block of South Timberlane Drive on Sept. 16, 2011. The fire caused $300,000 in damage.
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Map of this story's location

There was a dramatic increase in arson in the Spokane Valley area the week of Sept. 15-Wednesday and Spokane Valley firefighters also battled a large fire in a medical office building after an explosion tore apart the office of an oral surgeon.

Smoke was reported in the Valley Mission Professional Building at 12509 E. Mission Ave., across from Valley Hospital, at 7 a.m. on Monday. A second call a few minutes later reported an explosion and fire. No one was injured in the fire, which was fought by 42 firefighters.

Damage to the building, damaged equipment and revenue lost by businesses forced to shut ther doors could top $3 million, said assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford. “It may go above that,” he said.

Fire investigators know that the fire began in a room full of tanks that contained oxygen and nitrous oxide, said Clifford, they don’t knowhow the fire started. Investigators are literally piecing things together to determine the cause, he said. “We were actually able to get a surveillance video from the hospital that may assist in the investigation.”

Firefighters were kept busy by a series of arson and human-caused fires. The first was reported at 6:05 a.m. on Sept. 15 on a section of the Centennial Trail. A clump of grass was placed in the center of the trail and lit on fire, Clifford said. “Who knows why they would have done that at 6 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

Three arson fires were reported in the early morning hours of Sept. 16. Bushes in front of a home were set on fire in the 11600 block of East 19th Avenue at 2:13 a.m. The fire did not spread to the house and damages were minor, Clifford said. “I think neighbors across the street saw the bushes on fire,” he said.

A car was set on fire in the 14600 block of East Cataldo Avenue at 2:50 a.m. The 2004 Mazda sedan was a total loss. The third fire was discovered in tall grass and weeds in the 4300 block of South Ball Drive at 3:51 a.m.

Someone set fire to an apartment complex community building in the 10200 block of East 13th Avenue a few minutes after midnight on Sunday. The building sustained $25,000 in damage. Investigators believe they have identified a suspect in the final arson of the week, reported at 6:01 p.m. at Plantes Ferry Park at 12308 E. Wellesley Ave. A plastic diaper changing station in a bathroom was set on fire, causing $300 in damage.

Anyone with information on any of the arson fires is asked to call the fire department at 928-1700.

Bathroom ceiling fans sparked two small fires and a bonfire was reported in the 6300 block of North Lynden Road at 7:22 p.m. on Sunday. “Bonfires are actually illegal,” Clifford said. “If anyone has questions on what types of fires they can have, please give us a call.”

Crews were assisted by firefighters from Spokane County Fire District 8 with a call in the 2500 block of South Timberlane Drive just before 1 p.m. on Sept. 16. A resident received minor burns to his arm, neck and face and neighbor was treated for smoke inhalation. The damage to the house and its contents is estimated at $300,000, Clifford said.

What would turn out to be a stubborn brush fire was reported near a water tower in the Mirabeau Park Natural Area Tuesday afternoon. “It was human caused,” Clifford said. “It was either kids playing up there with matches or lighters or someone with a camp fire.”

Firefighters were called back to the same location twice on Wednesday after the fire rekindled. “It could have been hidden hot spots or it could be roots in the ground,” Clifford said.

A brush fire was also reported in a mobile home park in the 6300 block of East Second Avenue at 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday. “It was more of a bush fire,” Clifford said. “It got into some tall weeds and grass.”

Investigators believe the fire started when someone discarded a cigarette in some landscaping bark.

The department also responded to 194 EMS calls and 11 car accidents. Strangely enough, the department was also called twice because of broken sprinkler heads. “I’m not sure why we’re getting called for these,” Clifford said. “People are calling 911. There’s not a whole lot we can do.”

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