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Wednesday, July 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Crime/Public Safety

Multiple residents displaced in downtown Spokane apartment fire

UPDATED: Wed., March 20, 2019, 10:13 p.m.

Spokane Fire  Station 1 Ladder 1 firefighters catch their breath in the alley after overhauling rooms at an apartment blaze downtown, Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 317 W. Fourth Ave. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Fire Station 1 Ladder 1 firefighters catch their breath in the alley after overhauling rooms at an apartment blaze downtown, Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 317 W. Fourth Ave. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Multiple downtown Spokane residents were displaced Wednesday morning after a fire tore through units in a century-old apartment building near Lewis and Clark High School.

Firefighters were called to the structure at 317 W. Fourth Ave. at 7:05 a.m. on multiple reports of a fire. Rex Strickland, deputy fire chief for the Spokane Fire Department, said the blaze began in a first-floor residential unit. Ten minutes later, flames could be seen shooting from two windows on the first floor of the building’s east side.

By the time firefighters arrived, most residents were outside, Strickland said. A later search of the building showed no one inside, but a cat was located. One firefighter was injured and transported to a hospital with minor injuries.

The blaze was extinguished within minutes, but not before it spread and damaged a unit directly above it on the second floor. Several other units appeared to be damaged by smoke. Westminster Congregational Church directly to the west was not damaged.

Menson Umwech, who lives on the first floor in the building’s northwest corner, said the fire began in a nearby unit on the east end. He said there was a pounding on the door at about 7 a.m. from a neighbor who reportedly fell asleep with a candle burning, which caught a McDonald’s fast-food bag on fire.

Umwech said the man was going door to door, telling people to evacuate.

“He has a cat,” Umwech said. “The cat made it out, fortunately.”

As firefighters moved through the second floor, breaking windows and throwing out smoldering piles of furniture and other items, residents stood in a nearby parking lot.

Sierra Vanderhoogt lives on the third floor.

“I was making breakfast and I heard the big fire alarm go off,” she said. “Not mine, but the big ring-a-ding-ding one.”

Vanderhoogt immediately went out into the hallway, where she encountered other frantic neighbors. She stopped to help her neighbor Chandra Robb grab one of her cats from her room.

“I was busy trying to get my jerk cat out,” Robb said. “He did not want to leave.”

One woman, who asked not to be identified so as to not face retaliation by her landlord, said her fire alarm in her second-floor unit didn’t make a sound. She only learned of the fire after seeing flames shooting out near her window. She said she could feel the heat from her kitchen.

The building, built in 1914 according to Spokane County assessor’s records, was purchased in November 2017 for $1.28 million by Bruck Enterprises LLC.

A listing on apartments.com suggests the building has 19 one-bedroom apartments and five studio units.

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