Spokane firefighters pushed to limit during busy weekend

UPDATED: MONDAY, JULY 15, 2013, 2:03 P.M.

(Household belongings are piled in the driveway after a fire early Monday destroyed a home at W. 410 31st Ave. in Spokane. SR Photo: Dan Pelle)

Dry conditions and household mishaps combined to spark many brush and structure fires in the Spokane area from Saturday through Monday.

The number and timing of the fires kept crews working near capacity, said Spokane Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer.

“We really did push the limits inside of the city to handle the several major incidents we had,” Schaeffer said.

Two structure blazes hit the South Hill on Saturday. A two-alarm detached garage fire started around 2:30 p.m. at 3132 S. Manito Blvd. The fire was accidental and related to ignited gasoline fumes, Schaeffer said. Firefighters put out the fire within an hour, but not before the flames destroyed the garage and scorched the siding and roof of the adjacent home. One vehicle was destroyed and another heavily damaged. The homeowner suffered first- and second-degree burns in the blaze, according to a release from the fire department, and one firefighter was treated for a deep cut to his hand. Damages were estimated at a total of $100,000.

Later Saturday, a cooking accident sparked a fire in the kitchen of a South Hill home. Firefighters were called to the residence at 2108 E. 7th Ave. a little after 8 p.m. The fire was extinguished within 10 minutes and no injuries were reported. Damage was confined to the kitchen and was estimated at $2,000, according to a fire department news release.

Off-duty firefighters were called in to battle the South Hill blaze because minutes earlier another structure fire was reported at the offices of a land surveying company north of downtown Spokane. Six companies of Spokane firefighters fought a fire that began outside the offices of Benthin & Associates at 1004 N. Atlantic St. The building was vacant when the companies arrived, and no injuries were reported.

Schaeffer said the blaze originated outside the rear of the building and was likely caused by a cooking fire built by transients. The building sustained smoke damage, but the fire was extinguished in 90 minutes, Schaeffer said. The business will likely be able to continue to occupy the building because it remains structurally sound, he added.

Early Monday morning, a fire caused significant damage to a home near Comstock Park on the south side. Firefighters arrived at the 410 W. 31st Ave. home shortly after midnight, Schaeffer said, where four adults had escaped safely from the blaze. Two were asleep at the time of the fire, though they were awakened by the other occupants in time to leave. The fire had spread to all three levels of the home by the time firefighters arrived, Schaeffer said. Estimated losses in the fire total $100,000.

Scorched furniture was piled in the yard of the home at 410 W. 31st Ave. later Monday as fire investigators sifted through the home trying to determine a cause. Schaeffer said he expected to know more about the incident later Monday afternoon.

In addition to the structure fires, Spokane police and the fire department are investigating a brush fire that kicked off Sunday afternoon on a hillside near the Ben Burr Trail. Firefighters put out the flames before they threatened buildings. A news release from the fire department said investigators thought the fire was set intentionally. Anyone with information on the blaze is asked to contact the department’s tip line at (509) 344-3473.

Weather conditions this week are ripe for further fires, the National Weather Service reported Monday morning. High winds, low humidity and the chance of lightning storms Tuesday night increase the risk of fires sparking.

Schaeffer wouldn’t blame the weather exclusively for the busy weekend but praised expert firefighting and assists from surrounding departments in limiting damage and injuries.

“Considering how warm and how dry it is, we did really get extremely lucky without any significant injuries over the weekend,” Schaeffer said.

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