I have some follow up information on yesterday's house fire, thanks to fire marshal Kevin Miller of Spokane Valley Fire. Apparently the resident of the home near Harvard and Wellesley cleaned out a wood stove and placed the still-hot ashes next to a woodpile, which was stacked against the wall of the house. The ashes caught the wood on fire and the fire spread to the wall of the home, spreading up into the attic. It took 20 firefighters about 30 minutes to get the fire under control. No damage estimate is available yet.
The safety message here is that if you clean out a stove or fireplace, put the ashes in a metal container and then place the container far away from anything that might burn. (It's usually a good idea to keep wood piles away from the home, too.)