Budget cuts show in Spokane
The first crews to arrive at two South Hill house fires Monday were from a fire station that lost its first-response firefighting capability this year due to budget cuts.
Fire officials say it’s hard to say how much difference having a full engine crew on scene would have made.
One fire, shortly after midnight Monday at 410 W. 31st Ave. caused about $100,000 damage. The other, at 35 E. 28th Ave., was reported about 5:15 p.m. and caused at least $30,000 in damage.
The fires were part of a busy three-day span for Spokane firefighters who faced home, garage and brush fires. Some are suspicious.
In one 48-hour period, the department faced about 10 significant fires.
And a woman was injured Monday night when a garage fire at 2627 N. Howard St. burned her legs and feet, according to fire officials.
Neighbors rushed her to Holy Family Hospital, where she treated and released. A battalion chief said the fire may have started from a cutting tool the woman was using in the garage.
A fire burns at 2627 N. Howard St. on Monday night. (Courtesy photo: Jeremy Marinos)
Battalion Chief Bob Green, who was at both South Hill blazes, said having a three-person fire engine crew respond earlier may have made a difference at the fire on 31st.
“It they had some water, they could have done some good,” he said.
The Spokane Fire Department eliminated its three-person fire engine crew from Station No. 9 and shifted the city’s two-person rescue truck there to continue staffing the station, especially for medical emergencies.
But the rescue crew, which responds to most fires in the city, does not have hoses or ladders. They also are barred from entering burning structures because there are only two people on the crew.
Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said when the rescue crew arrives first, they assess the scene and provide important information so arriving engine crews can start fighting the fire quicker.
“It’s not necessarily a delay of work getting done,” Schaeffer said.
“We really did push the limits inside of the city to handle the several major incidents we had,” Schaeffer said. “It was just fire after fire after fire.”
At the home on 31st Avenue near Comstock Park, four adults escaped safely from the blaze before firefighters arrived, Schaeffer said. It spread to all three levels before firefighting began. County property records say the home was built in 1971 and is owned by M.A. and L. Parisot.
Scorched furniture was piled in the yard of the home later Monday as fire investigators sifted through the home. Schaeffer said investigators ruled out arson and believe the fire was started from smoking materials or a candle.
The fire on 28th Avenue was reported by a neighbor who saw smoke coming from the roof. Green said the man who lives in the home was at work at the time. He told firefighters that he recently experienced a partial electrical outage in his home, which has older wiring.
Property records indicate that the home, which was built in 1925, is owned by Christopher F. Warren.
For the second day in a row, Spokane firefighters Monday doused a blaze near the Ben Burr Trail in Liberty Park.
“It’s a human-caused fire, there’s no doubt,” Schaeffer said.
Crews were called to the scene about 3:50 p.m. Police were dispatched to look for suspicious activity.
At the fire near the trail on Sunday, there were multiple locations where fires started.
Schaeffer said the fire department will work with police to increase patrols in the area.
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 damaged. The homeowner suffered first- and second-degree burns, according to a release from the fire department, and one firefighter was treated for a deep cut to his hand. Damages were estimated at $100,000.
Property records say the home is owned by Kent D. Fleming.
Later Saturday, a cooking accident sparked a fire in the kitchen of another South Hill home. Firefighters were called to 2108 E. 7th Ave. after 8 p.m. The fire was extinguished within 10 minutes. Damage was confined to the kitchen and was estimated at $2,000, according to a fire department news release.
Off-duty firefighters were called to a 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 vacant building is owned by Scott Dale and Walt Dale.
Schaeffer said the fire started outside the rear of the building, likely caused by a cooking fire built by transients. Smoke damaged the building, but the business may be able to stay open, he added.
Weather conditions this week are ripe for further fires, the National Weather Service reported. High winds, low humidity and the chance of lightning storms Tuesday night increase the risk.
“Considering how warm and how dry it is, we did really get extremely lucky without any significant injuries over the weekend,” Schaeffer said.
Firefighters in Spokane Valley on Monday contained a brush fire northeast of Pines Road and Indiana Avenue in a natural area just north of the Granite Pointe Apartments, 12707 E. Mansfield Ave.
Crews were called to a 100-foot by 100-foot fire, Spokane Valley Fire Captain Paul Hatten said.
Department of Natural Resources crews also fought the fire, which spread into trees before it was doused, Hatten said. He said he did not yet know the size of the area burned. People have started many fires in the area in the past few years, Hatten said.
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