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Suspicious fire burns three homes

Two vacant mobile homes were destroyed and a third was damaged in a fire early Thursday morning at Palouse Hills Mobile Court on West Palouse River Drive in Moscow. (Geoff Crimmins / Moscow-Pullman Daily News)
Two vacant mobile homes were destroyed and a third was damaged in a fire early Thursday morning at Palouse Hills Mobile Court on West Palouse River Drive in Moscow. (Geoff Crimmins / Moscow-Pullman Daily News)

A fire that destroyed two mobile homes and damaged a third early Tuesday morning at Palouse Hills Mobile Court on the 900 block of West Palouse River Drive marks the third fire at the trailer court this month, and it is believed to be suspicious.

Moscow Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brian Nickerson said one mobile home was “totally consumed,” another was likely destroyed and a third was damaged by the fire. One other trailer, which was not damaged, was taped off and included in the investigation; it is unknown how that trailer is linked to the fire. None of the four structures were occupied at the time of the blaze.

Nickerson said after one mobile home caught fire, the blaze spread to two neighboring trailers at about 1 a.m.

The MVFD, Moscow Ambulance, Moscow Police Department, Whitman County Fire District 12 and Avista Utilities responded to the fire, and firefighters quickly controlled the blaze. No injuries were reported.

Nickerson said the MVFD and MPD are investigating the fire.

Ryan Marrs, who lives in an apartment unit in the trailer court just north of where the blaze occurred, said he saw a “bunch of lights flickering” in a reflection on the house across the street from him. He said he initially thought the flickering lights were car lights.

“I started hearing a bunch of popping sounds and couldn’t figure out what it was at first, but I looked down there and it was shooting up pretty good,” Marrs said. “It was almost up to the top of the power lines.”

Marrs said he called 911 at 12:51 a.m. He said he was worried about the fire spreading to his residence as embers floated in the air and landed on his grass outside his apartment and possibly on his dry roof.

Duke Rupe also got an uncomfortable close-up to the blaze. Rupe’s mobile home sits across the street ,some 30 feet from where the fire erupted.

Rupe said he got up to get a drink from his kitchen at about 12:30 a.m. when he saw an orange glow through the window. Upon closer examination, Rupe said he recognized a trailer’s porch was on fire across the street.

By the time he threw on a pair of shoes and got his family out of the house, the blaze had spread to the rest of the trailer, Rupe said. He said flames eventually spread to a trailer on the north side and then to another on the south side of the first trailer that caught fire.

He said he was concerned the fire would spread to his trailer, but the street acted as a bit of a barrier. Rupe said he and his wife attempted to prevent the spread of the fire with a garden hose until firefighters arrived. He said he also sprayed the front of his trailer and his roof using a garden hose in case embers landed on or near his home.

Rupe said the fire raced up part of two power poles near the first home that caught fire.

“There was popping and sparks flying from the lines,” Rupe said.

He said his power was shut off from about 2-3 a.m.

Rupe said the three structures were vacant and recently remodeled or were planned to be remodeled.

“The best part is no one was actually in any of them when they went up,” Rupe said.

Tuesday morning’s fire marks the third fire sparked at the trailer court this month.

A pile of lumber inside a storage unit in the trailer court caught fire Friday morning, causing no damage to the unit, Nickerson said. MVFD officials are investigating that fire, which they also deemed suspicious. A field west of the trailer court also caught fire Aug. 2. According to a city of Moscow news release, it is unknown if the wildland fire is related to the two most recent fires on the 900 block of West Palouse River Drive. Investigations are ongoing in all three fires.


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