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Early-morning explosion rocks Hillyard

Thu., April 10, 2014, 11:11 a.m.

Bert Halquist heard firecracker-like pops outside his Hillyard window early Thursday, then started to doze back off.

The “concussion” explosion that followed, shattering six windows in his home, brought him to his feet.

A truck with an over-the-cab camper exploded about 12:45 a.m. The blast shook windows from as far as six blocks away and shot a fireball 20 feet high, witnesses said. Fire crews quickly put out the blaze.

Fire investigators arrived at the scene near the intersection of Freya Street and Broad Avenue around 8 a.m. The cause remains unknown.

Halquist noticed the truck on Broad about 5 a.m. Wednesday, but said he hadn’t seen it before. He never saw the driver.

“I didn’t know if it was a vagrant or what,” he said. “If someone needed a place to sleep, I wasn’t going to bother them.”

Less than 24 hours later, “I saw light coming through the window… I was hit in the face with a piece of glass from one of the broken windows.”

Debris flew as far as 100 feet, Halquist said. Spokane Fire Department firefighters told him not to touch any of it, but did not put up crime scene tape around the area, he said.

“The fire and explosion damage spread for a good 10-15 feet around the truck, with smoking trash everywhere,” said Dan Gayle, a Spokesman-Review employee who lives six blocks away. “Firefighters extinguished flaming pieces of wood that were found on the roof of the nearby house, melting into the tar.”

Hours later, witnesses said, police responded to the scene and arrested a man found digging through the truck’s leftover debris.

A spokeswoman for Spokane County said that 911 received the emergency call for service and passed it along to Spokane fire and police departments and that the delay in police response reported by witnesses was not due to a region-wide 911 outage early today.

In a statement, 911 officials said they received a call regarding the camper fire at 12:46 a.m.

“The request for service was answered by 911 and processed and there was no impact or connection to the 911 outage,” the statement said.

Gayle said witnesses at the scene said they had attempted to call 911, but could not get through.

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