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Incident responses

Fri., July 26, 2013

At four recent South Hill fires, Rescue 9, a truck with little firefighting equipment aboard, was the first crew on scene. Rescue 9 was moved to Spokane Fire Station No. 9 when the engine company there was eliminated. Note: Firetrucks are named after the fire station where they’re housed, so Ladder 1 is a ladder truck housed at Station No. 1 downtown. Each incident lists the first three of many units to arrive.

• 3132 S. Manito Blvd., July 13

Firefighters dispatched at 2:33:17 p.m.

First arriving unit: a battalion chief in 6 minutes and 22 seconds

Second: Rescue 9 in 6 minutes 36 seconds

Third: Engine 11 in 7 minutes 3 seconds

The engine crew from Station No. 11 was delayed because they had to return to the station to change trucks after having been out on a medical call.

That crew normally would not have been dispatched, but its captain requested to go when the crew saw the towering pillar of smoke. The captain ignored department policy by ordering the driver to return to the station with its lights and sirens, although Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams said crews have flexibility to make a judgment call in such cases.

The Fire Department estimated losses from the fire at $100,000.

Judy Fleming can’t say enough about the efforts of firefighters who responded to the garage fire at the home where she’s lived with her husband for 36 years. The fire grew so quickly that she says firefighters are heroes for stopping the blaze before numerous homes were lost. The couple also are thankful that the fire captain opted to dismiss policy to get his crew to the fire faster.

Fleming said the city should be working to restore service lost through cuts and to re-examine the policy that may have delayed the arrival of firefighters.

“I just can’t imagine that a fire station would have to sit and watch half the South Hill go,” Fleming said. “That’s absurd.”

• 410 W. 31st Ave., July 15

Firefighters dispatched at 12:14:45 a.m.

First arriving unit: Rescue 9 in 5 minutes 9 seconds

Second arriving unit: Engine 11 in 7 minutes 24 seconds

Third: Ladder 1 in 8 minutes 50 seconds

Rescue 9 crews reported that when they arrived at the fire, which started on the back deck, it was starting to “consume” the back wall of the home and working into windows and the soffit.

Don Waller, president of Local 29 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said firefighting could have started quicker if the rescue crew had been an engine crew.

The Fire Department estimated losses from the fire at $100,000.

Lori and Michael Parisot, who have lived at the address since 1989, said they would prefer an engine company back in service at Station No. 9, but they’re not sure it would have made much difference in saving their home. They have only positive things to say about the service they had from the department.

“I thought they did a really great job. I don’t think there was anything they could do,” Lori Parisot said last week while taking a break from removing items from the home. “It was so fast.”

• 35 E. 28th Ave., July 15

Firefighters dispatched at 5:08:13 p.m.

First arriving crew: Rescue 9 in 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Second: Engine 16 in 5 minutes, 17 seconds

Third: Engine 4 in 8 minutes, 1 second

Dispatch records indicate that the rescue unit was on scene for nearly three minutes until an engine arrived. Waller said the Rescue 9 crew could do little after verifying that there was fire and peering through the windows. Smoke was coming from the attic but did not appear to be in the living area. Since the two-person crew is without much firefighting equipment, they don’t break open the home because doing so would introduce oxygen.

The fire occurred during an extremely busy day that included the fire on 31st Avenue and two significant brush fires.

Williams said this fire shows the dynamics of providing fire service: Had an engine crew still been housed at Station No. 9, it likely would have been at a south Spokane brush fire that crews were fighting at the same time as the fire on 28th. That means the city’s rescue unit still might have been the first crew on scene, but it would have had farther to drive – from Station No. 1 downtown, where it was housed until this year.

Waller responded that if Engine 9 were still around, one of the brush fires might have been doused sooner and it might have been back in the station, able to respond to the house fire.

The Fire Department estimated losses from the fire at $30,000.

• 917 W. 16th Ave., June 29

Firefighters dispatched at 3:22:16 p.m.

First arriving crew: Rescue 9 in 3 minutes 55 seconds

Second: Engine 1 in 8 minutes 3 seconds

Third: Battalion chief in 8 minutes 34 seconds

Neighbors say they were frightened by a boom of thunder and assumed something had been struck nearby. David Tremaine and his brother first saw smoke coming from the home at 917 W. 16th. They called 911 and entered the unlocked home with a fire extinguisher; they doused a flame coming from the attic through an upstairs window.

Rescue 9 was the first firefighting crew on scene. While waiting for an engine crew, one of the firefighters used a garden hose on fire coming from the attic. The two-person crew is not allowed to enter a burning structure.

“Is it appropriate for the second-largest fire department in Washington to be fighting fires with garden hoses?” asked Waller, the union president.

Although he questions the decision to pull the engine crew from Station No. 9, Tremaine said the garden hose appeared effective and may have been faster than hauling fire hoses to the home, which has a deep front yard. He and other neighbors said they were extremely impressed with the firefighters’ response.

The Fire Department estimated losses from the fire at $20,000.

Jonathan Brunt, staff writer

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