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Four teens arrested in string of arsons near Sprague, Sullivan

Sat., July 14, 2012

This newspaper collection box near Sprague and Sullivan was one of 20 arson fires set in the area recently. Four arrests have been made.
This newspaper collection box near Sprague and Sullivan was one of 20 arson fires set in the area recently. Four arrests have been made.

Four teenagers suspected of setting 20 arson fires since the end of June behind businesses in the area of Sprague Avenue and Sullivan Road and at Central Valley High School were arrested this week. All the fires were set in Dumpsters, trash cans, recycling bins and recycling donation boxes.

“All of these were late night, very early morning fires,” said Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford. “Sometimes there were as many as three fires in one night.”

The incident at the school involved six garbage cans set on fire at 3:22 a.m. Sunday. Most of the Dumpsters and other containers were destroyed, Clifford said. Their value is estimated at more than $16,000. All four teens are facing second-degree arson charges and have been booked into the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center.

The fires are under investigation and there may be more arrests, Clifford said.

There was also a Dumpster fire at Centennial Middle School reported at 11:16 p.m. on July 4. “It doesn’t appear to be connected to the ones at Sprague and Sullivan, but we don’t have much information,” Clifford said.

Fireworks apparently caused a brush fire near the Wal-Mart parking lot at 10:22 p.m. July 4. A person called 911 to report a large group of teens setting off fireworks that had started a fire. Firefighters reported seeing people gathering evidence and running from the scene when they arrived, Clifford said. The small fire was quickly put out.

The cause of a fire at Spokane Industries at 3808 N. Sullivan Road on July 2 was traced to a malfunctioning motor, Clifford said. The fire caused an estimated $20,000 in damage and forced the evacuation of 75 employees.

The fire was actually put out by the building’s sprinkler system, but the water mixed with a chemical and overflowed out of a containment area. The firefighters had to be decontaminated by the Spokane Fire Department’s hazmat team.

The department responded to 525 calls between June 28 and July 11. “We had a huge increase,” Clifford said. The number was driven up by the large number of arson fires and a much higher than normal 399 EMS calls.

One call was at the request of bystanders in the Fred Meyer parking lot at Sprague and Sullivan at 6:44 p.m. on July 7 who reported a 2-year-old girl left alone in a running car. Firefighters had to knock repeatedly on the window to get the girl to wake up, said Clifford, which concerned them. “To us, that’s a pretty severe emergency,” he said.

The crew was preparing to break into the car when the girl’s father arrived. “The father was quite agitated and drove away,” he said. “They were not able to assess the child for heat exhaustion.” The crew reported the car’s license plate number to police, Clifford said.

Firefighters responded to several hazardous material calls, including a homeowner who accidentally dug up his natural gas line and a semitruck that backed into a natural gas line. A homeowner in the 500 block of North Timberlane Road called to report an unusual odor at 12:28 a.m. Sunday. Firefighters were quickly able to identify the culprit as a skunk, Clifford said.

“I know skunks smell pretty nasty, but people should know what a skunk smells like,” he said.

The Fire Department is frequently called to help people who have locked themselves out of their vehicle or home. Crews usually ask for information to verify that the person asking for help owns the house or car, Clifford said.

The department was called recently to the 15100 block of East First Avenue by a man who claimed he was a tenant in a home but didn’t have a key and the homeowner was unavailable. “We declined to break in,” Clifford said. The man didn’t own the home, there wasn’t an emergency and there was no way to get in without causing damage, Clifford said.

Firefighters were also called to assist police Wednesday in the 17600 block of East Alki Avenue. The police were there to check up on a resident who had not been seen in some time and needed the firefighters’ breathing apparatus to enter the home. The resident was deceased and had apparently died two to three weeks earlier, Clifford said.

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