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Coming on Saturday

Firefighters from the Spokane Valley Fire Department faced heavy smoke and flames in a fire at the Manor Vale Apartments at 10101 E. Main on March 1. Photo courtesy the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

The hills behind Central Valley High School are apparently alive with the sound of music. Reporter Lisa Leinberger talked to Central Valley High School students who are part of the cast for the classic musical "The Sound of Music" that will soon take the stage. Her story will be in Saturday's Valley Voice.

The community of Otis Orchards is in mourning after the accidental death of Ronda Emerson, the well-known co-owner of The Otis Grill. I spoke to her husband and a few others at the restaurant this week to paint a picture of a fearless, adventurous woman who was willing to help anyone in need.

The Liberty Lake City Council recently voted to spend some money on the first phase of the long-planned arboretum. Reporter Lisa Leinberger will have the details on that. And, last but not least, the Spokane Valley Fire Department responded to two major fires last week.

Apartment fire this morning

Deadlines have kept me from blogging much today, but I did get some pictures from the Spokane Valley Fire Department from a fire at the Manor Vale Apartments this morning at 10101 E. Main. The fire was called in at about 9:30 a.m. and firefighters found heavy smoke and flames when they arrived, according to assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford.

Two apartments were heavily damaged and residents in two adjoining apartments may be allowed back inside once the air quality improves, Clifford said. No one was injured and crews managed to save a cat. The fire was likely caused by combustible items placed too close to a heater, Clifford said. Photo courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Arsonist pleads guilty after just 13 days

A longtime felon and litigation seeker faces 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges related to two arson fires in Spokane Valley.

Anthony W. Sotin, 42, was indicted by a grand jury just 13 days ago. He pleaded guilty this morning in U.S. District Court in Spokane to use of a fire to commit a federal felony and malicious use of property to damage property used in interstate commerce.

Sotin will remain in custody pending sentencing, which is scheduled for May 27. The first charge mandates 10 years in prison; the second by at least five years and no more than 20. 

The plea deal calls for prosecutors to recommend Sotin be sentenced to 120 months in prison and three years probation. It also drops one count of wire fraud, which carried a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison.

Sotin was accused of starting a fire in a building on Nora Avenue Feb. 9 and setting a car on fire Jan. 12, then filing a false insurance claim.

Sotin is well known by law enforcement and has filed more than 15 lawsuits against various government entities, including 12 in 1996 alone.

He currently has a lawsuit filed against the city of Spokane, alleging his rights were violated because he wasn't allowed to leave messages for a public defender representing him in a Municipal Court case.

Past coverage:

Feb. 19: Arrest made in building, vehicle fires

Aug. 8, 1997: Latest antics add to Sotin's long rap sheet

Grab an umbrella

If you're looking for something to do this afternoon, head to the groundbreaking for the new Spokane Valley Fire Department administration building at 3:30 p.m. If the weather doesn't shape up, though, it looks as though you might need an umbrella to do so. The fire commissioners, fire chief and others will be there to officially launch the project, which will be built next to Station 8 at 2110 N. Wilbur. The project should be complete by the end of the year.

Coming on Saturday

Tomorrow sounds like a really, really good day to curl up with a blanket and a cup of coffee to read the Valley Voice. There will be an update on the efforts of Millwood residents to save the wading pool that has been a city park staple for decades. Reporter Lisa Leinberger will have a campaign announcement for the November Liberty Lake election for mayor.

The Spokane County Library District, which serves the entire Valley area except Liberty Lake, recently added thousands of free electronic books to its web site. They're available to anyone. It was also a busy week for the Spokane Valley Fire Department and we'll have pictures of a fire they struggled to put out in an extremely cluttered home.

Coming on Saturday

Saturday's Valley Voice is going to be packed with good stuff. Even though Monday is a holiday, I plan to drop in and post some links. But if you can't wait that long, tomorrow you can check out our newly redesigned Voices web page that just pops with pictures.

The Fairfield City Council held a public hearing this week to discuss a proposal to add a 6 percent utility tax on electrical bills to help pay for street maintenance. A crowd of about 20 residents turned out, which is a large showing in a town of only 587 residents.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department arrested Anthony W. Sotin in connection with two recent arson fires. He was indicted by a Federal grand jury this week. His lengthy criminal record includes a previous conviction for arson.

Both Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake have been having problems with garage burglaries lately. Police urge people to lock up at night to foil the thieves that are apparently roaming the neighborhoods in the early morning hours looking for crimes of opportunity.

Reporter Lisa Lienberger talked to some Ness Elementary students who spent part of their day recently helping hand out food for Second Harvest at Millwood Presbyterian Church.

Saturday’s highlights

Otis Orchards Elementary kitchen manager Judy Boykin serves up chicken fried steak wth potatoes and gravy, vegetables, rolls and cookies for the senior meals lunch Feb. 3. Lunch through Valley Meals on Wheels is offered Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

We managed to pack several interesting stories into Saturday's Valley Voice. Here's the roundup, in case you missed it. Otis Orchards Elementary is the only school in the area to be a senior meal site through Valley Meals on Wheels. Reporter Lisa Leinberger checked in on how it is going and found that several of the seniors have given volunteer applications to Principal Suzanne Savall. The lunches are served on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The Spokane Valley City Council spent a day last week in a lengthy winter retreat discussing everything from funding street maintenance to a possible city hall site. The Simply Northwest gift shop known for its gift baskets is now under new ownership. An employee purchased the store from founder De Scott.

Residents in Millwood are apparently upset over a recent vote by the city council to shut down and tear out the wading pool that has been in the Millwood City Park since 1954. After hearing from several residents, last week the council agreed to take another look at the plan.

There was some brief excitement last week for Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighters. That generated some advice from assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford - it's a really, really, really bad idea to try and clean up a large gasoline spill by putting a match to it.

Coming Saturday

We'll have some great entertainment for you in Saturday's Valley Voice. In addition to an arson fire this week, the Spokane Valley Fire Department responded to a fireball seen at a local tavern. It turned out that someone had tried to clean up a gasoline spill by lighting it on fire, with predictable bad results. Luckily no one was hurt.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger stopped by Otis Orchards Elementary recently to see how the latest Valley Meals on Wheels site is doing. It's the first one in a school. I also have a report on the all day winter retreat with the Spokane Valley City Council. They discussed a wide variety of topics, including economic development, finances and street maintenance.

Coming Thursday

It's been busy in Spokane Valley. Last night a Spokane Valley man allegedly stabbed his brother after the two fought. Now one brother is in jail on an attempted murder charge and the other is in serious condition in the hospital. And this morning the Spokane Valley Fire Department was called out to what is being called a suspicious fire in a vacant building at 13412 E. Nora.

Since it is Wednesday, we also have to take a look at what is coming in the Valley Voice tomorrow. Freeman School District Superintendent Sergio Hernandez recently announced that he will retire in June and reporter Lisa Leinberger talked to him about what he is planning next after his 41 year career in education. I'll have a report on Tuesday's Spokane Valley City Council meeting, where a reduced field of five council members efficiently dealt with the business before them.

One item of note to come out of the council meeting is a change in the schedule to appoint a replacement for Rose Dempsey. Things have been bumped back a bit. The council will narrow the field to several finalists on March 22, conduct interviews on March 29 and vote on who to appoint to the vacant seat on April 5. Applications still must be turned in to the city by 4 p.m. on March 4.  

Saturday’s highlights

Bus mechanic Everett Combs holds Eve. Combs is the one who found the stray kitten near the Freeman School District bus barn. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

It's Monday again, and a chilly one at that. Monday, of course, means highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. The feel-good story of the Voice is Lisa Leinberger's tale of the Itty Bitty School Bus Kitty, also known as Eve. She was found and taken in by the Freeman school bus drivers and is now featured in a children's book.

The Spokane Valley City Council is taking steps to appoint a replacement for former council woman Rose Dempsey, who resigned her seat. The Spokane Valley Fire Department was kept busy with fires caused by a candle, an engine block heater and cooking oil.

This week's Inside Our Schools column has a bunch of tidbits, including Central Valley's plans for upcoming renovations, the departure of East Valley Middle School principal Mark Purvine and upcoming East Valley bond information meetings. The Spokane Valley Fire Department also recently recognized two men for giving live saving aid to a hit and run victim.  

Sunrise Elementary students meet Mako

Spokane Valley Fire Department arson dog Mako poses with fire investigator Rick Freier and a student at the Sunrise Elementary science fair Thursday night. The photo is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department. 

It looks like Mako the arson dog had a good time last night at the annual Sunrise Elementary science fair. Spokane Valley Fire Department fire investigator Rick Freier brought his canine partner to the fair for students to meet and it looks like some of the kids were happy to pet him and learn a little about how he works. After a few months on the job Mako has settled in enough to begin making the rounds of local schools. If you are interested in having Freier and Mako visit your school or event to talk about fire safety, call the fire department at 928-1700.

East Farms business burns

This truck may have caused a fire this morning at 25170 E. Kildea. The photo is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department put out a fire at Premier Lumber on Kildea just off Starr Road in the wee hours of the morning today. A Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy called in the fire at 12:10 a.m. and when firefighters arrived flames were coming from a sawdust hopper and an enclosed area that housed a large truck, according to a press release from assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford.

The truck was burned and parts of the building were also damaged, though an official estimate of damages isn't available yet. It is thought that the fire started in the truck's engine compartment and may have been sparked by an engine block heater, Clifford said.

Men recognized for saving hit and run victim

Two men were recently recognized for their livesaving efforts by the Spokane Valley Fire Department. They are pictured here along with the Engine 7 crew that responded to the call. Pictured from left to right are Firefighter Holin Honeyfield, Cpt. Tim Cruger, Paramedic Rich Bruce, Steve Stermer, Heith Carlton and Fire Chief Mike Thompson. The photo is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

At yesterday's Spokane Valley Fire Commissioners meeting Outstanding Citizen awards were given to two men who stopped and gave life saving treatment to a hit and run victim in the early morning hours of Jan. 1. A Spokane Valley Police Department press release identified the victim as Cody Washburn, 18. He was hit by a car on Fourth between Adams and Progress while walking home and was left in the street.

The two men, Steve Stermer and Heith Carlton, found Washburn lying in the street and called 911. They used their coats to cover him until firefighters from Station 7 arrived to treat him. Washburn suffered a broken back and severe hypothermia. Paramedic Rich Bruce nominated the two for the award. "I firmly believe their actions saved a young man's life," Bruce wrote in his nomination.

The driver in the crash left a license plate at the scene of the accident and was later arrested and charged with felony hit and run.

Saturday’s highlights

Central Valley’s Tyler Chamberlain (24) blasts past University’s Justin Donahue during a game Jan. 11. SR photo/Dan Pelle

There's a lot of good stuff from Saturday's Valley Voice to check out if you missed it over the weekend. Correspondent Steve Christilaw has a nice look at Central Valley High School basketball player Tyler Chamberlain, who is having a healthy season and is excelling. There's a brief update on Mako the arson dog in this week's Spokane Valley Fire Department update.

Jeanne Erickson, the owner of Tune Tales Music, is offering music education classes for young children through the Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Department. Kids love to sing and dance and they don't even care if they're moving with the beat.

Spokane Valley city councilman Dean Grafos has suggested a couple of projects; adding flashing crossing beacons at Bowdish Middle School and creating a city entry on donated land at Appleway and Thierman. You can also take a look at the often commented on opinion column written by Spokane Valley Planning Commission chairman John Carroll, which got some attention at last week's council meeting.

Coming on Saturday

Jeanne Erickson uses zebra finger puppets to teach singing and pitch development during her music class at CenterPlace on Wednesday. She uses musical games and movement to introduce children to music and music theory. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak 

Another Saturday, another wonderful Valley Voice. The owner of Tune Tales Music is offering classes through the Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Department to teach young children about music theory and musical instruments. It also gives kids a chance to move around and have a little fun.

After some belt tightening last year, some on the Spokane Valley City Council are considering whether to spend some money on a city entry at Appleway and Thierman and flashing school crossing beacons at area middle schools. Those of you who read my Thursday story on the large amount of public comment at Tuesday's city council meeting can take a look at a Vocal Point column by Spokane Valley Planning Commission chairman John Carroll. It is the same as the email that has been circulating around that some people found fault with. You can read it and see what you think.

Finally, you can learn what happens when you combine a faulty heater with a freshly shampood carpet and keep up to date on the travelings of Mako, the Spokane Valley Fire Department arson dog.

Name a fire station

Okay, everyone, time to put on your thinking caps. The Spokane Valley Fire Department is looking for a new name for Station 5, located at 15510 E. Marietta. It's just off Sullivan on the southern edge of the Industrial Park.

The department has launched a program to rename all of its fire stations, since not many people know without looking at a map where, say, Station 6 is. The first to be renamed was the fomer Station 10 on Sprague near Flora, which is now called the Greenacres Fire Station. The goal is to name each station something that indicates what neighborhood or area of town it is in.

So what shoud it be? Something obvious like the Sullivan Fire Station? Or maybe something that refers to its location near the Industrial Park? It's all up to you. (The photo of Station 5 is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department) 

Update: There is some sort of conflict with the planned meeting to get public input, which has been cancelled. Come up with your station name ideas and when the meeting is rescheduled I'll post an update.

Saturday’s highlights

Karl Felgenhauer, president of the nonprofit Fairfield Care, stands in a one-bedroom apartment at the newly reopened senior facility. “We started with nothing,” he said, “but we're here to stay.” SR photo/Bart Rayniak

Well now, how about those Eagles? If you were too busy Saturday basking in the glow of a national championship win, I've got some links to Valley Voice stories you can get caught up on. The East Valley School District board was forced to move its meeting when upset parents didn't leave the meeting room when the meeting was recessed. The furor is surrounding the district's plan to move to a pre K-8 school system.

The old Fairfield Good Samaritan is now under the ownership of the community non-profit organization Fairfield Care and is open to seniors looking for independent living apartments. Assisted living units will be open in the Spring once the appropriate licenses are in place.

Weather caused a scary momemt for some Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighers when their truck slid backwards down an icy hill as they were on their way to a call. The town of Millwood is considering chlorinating the town's water and the council also voted to remove parking restrictions on Laura Road between Frederick and Buckeye.

Coming on Saturday

We'll have a few good stories in the Saturday Valley Voice to go with your morning cup of coffee. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a follow up on a contentious East Valley School District board meeting, where some parents were upset about the district's plan undo the traditional elementary school, middle school, high school model.

A group of resdients in Fairfield have banded together to form a non-profit to take over the facility that was formerly the Fairfield Good Samaritan nursing home and assisted living center. Fairfield Care has had a limited opening and more will be added as licenses are approved.

A crew of firefighters from Spokane Valley Fire had a scare last week when the engine they were riding in was forced to stop on a slippery hill and began to slide backwards. Luckily it went into the ditch, not off the edge of the embankment.

Fire crews wear pink for breast cancer

Spokane Valley firefighters are taking part in a national emergency responder campaign aimed at supporting breast cancer research. 

Firefighters will wearing pink t-shirts with the Spokane Valley Fire Department logo on Oct. 25 - Oct. 27. Crews ordered 70 extra shirts that were sold to family and friends.

The fire department will donate $5 for each shirt worn to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

“Together we can raise awareness about this devastating disease and make an impact in our community by committing to regular screenings,” Bill Clifford said in a news release.

The Northern Lakes Fire Station in Hayden, Idaho, is selling similar t-shirts.

Newest member of the Spokane Valley FD

During a media demonstration at Valley Fire Station 8 on Monday, Spokane Valley Fire Department fire investigator Rick Freier shows how his K-9 partner Mako, an arson dog, can sniff out gasoline and other liquid accelerants used by arsonists.

He’s cute, he’s friendly, his tail wags a mile a minute and he has a badge on his red collar. Meet Mako, the new arson dog at the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Mako was unveiled this week after completing training with handler Rick Freier, a fire investigator, and becoming certified to sniff out the odor of accelerants such as gasoline at fire scenes. The dog, a 1 ½-year-old black Labrador, was paid for by State Farm Insurance. The company has sponsored an arson dog program since 1993 and pays to train 10 dogs and handlers in the United States every year. Nina Culver, SR Read more.

Please note all members of the fire department are fully clothed in this photo.

Arson suspect caught on tape

Fire investigators think the man pictured is responsible for an arson fire behind a Spokane Valley convenience store last month.

The fire was reported just after 6 p.m. on Jan. 18 behind the Hico Village at 1201 North Barker Road.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department determined the fire was intentionally set and are looking for tips identifying the culprit, the department announced Monday.

Anyone with information is asked to call (509) 928-1700, or call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Deer rescued on Liberty Lake

Firefighters rescued a young whitetail deer Wednesday after it became stranded on thin ice at Liberty Lake.

Crews from the Spokane Valley Fire Department were called to the 2000 block of South Liberty Lake Drive around 10 a.m., after a resident reported a deer had fallen through the ice and was stuck.

Firefighters trained in ice rescue reached the deer about 70 to 100 yards from shore and pulled it to safety.

The animal didn’t appear to be injured, officials said.

The rescue took about 15 minutes, officials said.

The news release touting the rescue included this sentence: “Without hockey gear and other juvenile buddies around, it was determined that the young white tail wandered onto the thin ice and was stranded and not up for reindeer games.”