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Washington Voices

Valley medical building bouncing back from blast

Seven months after a fire and explosion severely damaged portions of the Valley Mission Professional Building across from Valley Hospital, building owner Ron Ogle is still knee deep in an extensive rebuilding project.

Investigators determined the fire started in a room housing tanks of medical gasses in the office of oral surgeons Kenji Higuchi and Daniel Skinner, although the cause of the fire is unknown. At least one gas tank exploded. Windows shattered, ceilings cracked and collapsed, walls were destroyed and debris was thrown dozens of feet. Since the explosion was just after 7 a.m., only a few people were in the building and all escaped safely.

Dentist Tom Conlon was spared any structural damage in his office and was able to reopen a few weeks after the fire once the smoke damage was cleaned up.

“It’s the only one where they didn’t replace the sheetrock,” Ogle said.

Now the dentist has been joined by Valley Mission Homecare Pharmacy, which has been moving back into the building this week. The pharmacy had been operating out of a portable office trailer in the parking lot since the fire.

The other four tenants found temporary locations to see patients shortly after the fire. Spokane Obstetrics and Gynecology is expected to move in on June 1, followed by Providence Valley Family Physicians on June 15. Higuchi and Skinner should be able to return on July 1.

Each tenant was allowed to have a say in the design of their office, right down to paint color and lighting fixtures. Hallways were widened from 4 feet to 5 and one tenant made their lobby smaller in order to add more exam rooms. “Everyone did a few changes,” Ogle said. “Quite a few changes, in fact.”

Only one tenant, Summit Rehabilitation, will not be returning. “They couldn’t wait,” he said.

Ogle said he is finalizing an agreement with a new tenant and that tenant will get to design the space to their specifications. That office should be ready by Oct. 1, Ogle said.

Ogle said the redesign will also help ensure there isn’t a repeat of the incident that damaged the building. The medical gas tanks in the oral surgery office will be sealed off from the office and accessible only from an outside door. It has separate ventilation directly to the outside.

“This can never happen again,” Ogle said. “This side here will be safe.”

There are other changes as well. The building now has a sprinkler system and a circulating water system to provide instant hot water. The bathrooms are being made compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and the elevator is being upgraded.

Ogle said his insurance company is paying $2.3 million to repair the building, and he’s paying for additional improvements out of his own pocket.

“It’s a choice I made,” he said. “There isn’t a thing we didn’t really address. We completely redid everything from the sewer to the water lines.”

Ogle said he’s been happy with the work done by Ramey Construction and its subcontractors. He’s also grateful that no one was injured in the explosion and doesn’t mind that the fire forced him to redo improvements he had just completed before the incident. “You can rebuild anything,” he said. “Just think if it would have been an hour later.”