June 2, 2012 in Washington Voices

Makeshift smoker burns barns, trailer

By The Spokesman-Review
Map of this story's location

An old refrigerator made into a smoker caused $60,000 in damage to two barns and a travel trailer in the 5700 block of North Drury Road on May 19. The fire was discovered at 1:46 a.m. in an old barn that housed the smoker, said Spokane Valley Fire assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford.

Clifford said he has heard of people using the old metal refrigerators to smoke food. “When you smoke, it reaches temperatures of 250, sometimes 300 degrees,” he said. “It breaks down the insulation over time. They’re not meant to be smokers.”

The flames did not stay confined to the older barn. “There was a travel trailer parked next to it that was completely demolished,” Clifford said. A newer barn close by was also damaged.

There were several other fires reported during the two weeks ending May 30. Someone set large, round bales of hay on fire in the 17700 block of East Broadway Avenue just before 1 a.m. on May 25. “Those were on a flatbed trailer and someone had ignited two of them,” Clifford said.

Discarded cigarettes were pinpointed as the cause of two separate fires. The first was reported at 807 N. Argonne Road at 2:27 p.m. on May 18. A cigarette was put in a plastic disposal container that had not been cleaned recently and started a fire, Clifford said. Someone threw a cigarette into landscaping bark at an apartment complex in the 2700 block of North Pines Road the afternoon of May 19. The fire did not cause much damage. “It could have, if it had spread to the building,” Clifford said.

Someone using their barbecue for the first time this year ran into a problem because the propane tank fitting was loose, causing a leak. “Inspect your appliances before igniting your barbecue,” Clifford said.

There were six illegal yard waste fires reported, a brush fire that turned out to be a legally permitted slash pile fire and another case of arborvitae bushes turned into a flaming torch.

Residents in the 12000 block of East Ninth Avenue spotted smoke in their neighbor’s backyard at 3 p.m. on May 17. The arborvitae bushes that lined his back fence were on fire.

“There was a young boy living behind the property playing with matches that set it on fire,” Clifford said. The boy will be paying back the homeowner for the $200 in damage, he said.

Crews responded to 367 EMS calls and 19 car crashes during the two-week period. Someone reported that a kayaker had overturned in the Spokane River near Trent Avenue and Pines Road and was floating downstream while trying to retrieve his kayak, Clifford said. When firefighters arrived they found that the man had been successful. “He was safe to the shore and had his kayak,” Clifford said.

Employees at a self-storage business in the 16700 block of East Sprague Avenue called the department on May 29 to report that someone may have run into their building. It turned out that some of the roofing had not been attached properly and had partially blown off in the wind, said Clifford. The business was advised to call a contractor to have it fixed, he said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email