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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fire burns North Side apartment building

The Lloyd building goes up in flames while Spokane firefighters work to contain to blaze on the corner of Monroe Street and Mansfield Avenue on Friday evening. 
 (Photos by Holly Pickett/ / The Spokesman-Review)
The Lloyd building goes up in flames while Spokane firefighters work to contain to blaze on the corner of Monroe Street and Mansfield Avenue on Friday evening. (Photos by Holly Pickett/ / The Spokesman-Review)

The three-story Lloyd apartment building at Monroe Street and Mansfield Avenue caught fire about 7:15 p.m. Friday, sending up a pall of black smoke and flames that attracted a crowd of hundreds.

A fire alarm alerted residents and no one was injured, but 28 people, including nine children, were left homeless. Businesses on the ground floor, the Hi-Neighbor Tavern and Ron Bledsoe’s Karate Academy, were closed.

Authorities brought in a Spokane Transit Authority bus, where Red Cross officials assisted the displaced residents. An emergency shelter was to be set up at North Central High School.

Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams said he feared many of the residents don’t have insurance.

Pointing to a portion of the roofline that showed signs of collapse, Williams said a section of Monroe Street is likely to remain closed much of the weekend until inspectors determine the building’s structural integrity.

Williams didn’t know the cause of the fire, but said it started in an apparently occupied apartment along the north wall of the third floor.

Ryan Kroum was watching the fire with hundreds of others. He said he is a friend of the building’s owner, Mark Agee, who also owns Agee Electric.

According to Kroum, much of the building was undergoing renovation. Only two apartments at the front of the building had been fully remodeled, Kroum said.

Williams said six of 12 apartments on the third floor and six of 12 on the second floor were occupied. One of four apartments on the ground floor was occupied, he said.

Every apartment was likely damaged in some way, Williams said.

The first crew to arrive, four minutes after the fire was reported at 7:17 p.m., encountered heavy smoke and found the fire burning in walls and spreading throughout the “cock loft,” or shallow attic. Firefighters attacked the fire from inside the building for 30 to 45 minutes, “but it was too much for them,” Williams said.

Winds that fanned other fires throughout the county drove the Lloyd fire through the cock loft, and firefighters on the roof were unable to cut a hole to ventilate the roof before it became too hot for them and a decision was made to abandon the attack.

About three minutes after firefighters withdrew from the building, a “back draft” or a “smoke explosion” caused the roof to collapse in the area where firefighters had been working, Williams said.

After that, four aerial ladders shot water through the upper windows. Pouring water onto the roof – until the fire burned it through – would have done about as much good as throwing water onto an umbrella, the chief said.

“We’ll be here all night,” he said.

Two alarms were called, but the blaze was the equivalent of a three-alarm fire, Williams said.

He said 10 city trucks were employed, and the Spokane Valley Fire Department supplied an engine.

All city firefighting resources were in use because of the apartment fire and others throughout the county that were caused by a sudden, violent storm. Five of 14 city fire stations were manned by crews from Spokane Valley and fire districts 8, 9 and 10 for two to three hours, Williams said.

Because of the fires, firefighters were unable to serve as first responders on medical calls, leaving only ambulance crews for medical emergencies.

Spokane Police Cpl. John Strickland said smoke was coming from only one window on the north side of the third floor when he arrived shortly after the fire was reported. But flames soon shot out of a couple of windows, and the north half of the top floor was soon engulfed in flames. Eventually, the fire was hot enough to warm people a half-block away.

The breeze blew the thick black smoke southwest, and Mansfield was as black as a cornfield on a moonless night even though dusky sunlight prevailed elsewhere. A murmur passed through the crowd when an adjacent pine tree, about 50 feet taller than the building, erupted with a rushing sound and the brilliant light of a giant Roman candle.

Jonathan Murphy of El Paso, Texas, and three fellow Mormon missionaries from various parts of the country were among the first spectators. They had been on their way to a meeting nearby when they heard sirens.

Murphy said he was astonished by the speed with which a bit of smoke from a window on the north side of the third floor became a sheet of flames running all along that side of upper floor.

“This is definitely a journal entry,” Murphy said.

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