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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Automatic alarm summons fire crews

Spokane Valley firefighters rescued a woman from her cooking Monday at the Apple Grove Apartments.

“We got there and kicked in the door and found her passed on the floor,” Fire Marshal Kevin Miller said. “AOB, alcohol on breath, is what we say.”

The woman was uninjured by the burning food she had left on the stove.

Miller said firefighters were called to her apartment in the 11000 block of East Fourth Avenue about 1 a.m. by an automatic alarm system that failed to rouse the drunken woman. She was left in the apartment manager’s care.

Most of the damage was from the broken door, as was the case about 10 a.m. May 15 when firefighters forced their way into an unoccupied home in the 4900 block of East First Avenue to put out a fire in a malfunctioning pellet stove.

Miller said neighbors called the fire department when they heard smoke detectors going off inside the home. He said the fire was “pretty much confined to the stove,” which is fed by an electric auger.

The calls were among 220 the department received in the reporting week that ended Wednesday night. Emergency medical service accounted for 168, or 76 percent, of the calls.

Firefighters also responded to a couple of plant fires Sunday – one large, one small.

The larger fire was thought at first to be a burning apartment building, but it turned out to be a large juniper bush next to the Aspen Village Apartments, in the 15800 block of East Fourth Avenue.

Junipers “can be very dangerous,” Miller said. “They burn like there’s no tomorrow.”

He said the fire department has responded to numerous incidents in which fire from burning bushes spread into buildings through the eaves, but the apartment building was undamaged in this case.

“We had a lot of guys there because of the potential,” Miller said, noting five engines and a ladder truck responded.

He said the fire was believed to have been started, either deliberately or carelessly, by some teenagers who were seen in the area shortly before midnight. Anyone with information about the fire should call the department at (509) 928-1700, Miller said.

He said the smaller of Sunday’s plant fires occurred about 2 p.m. in a flower pot on a deck at the Valley 206 Apartments in the 2400 block of North Wilbur Road. Someone apparently used the pot as an ash tray, not realizing that potting soil burns, Miller said.

“We get those all the time,” he said.

Other fires included four burning utility poles Tuesday that were ignited by wind on electric lines. One of the fires spread to grass at corner of Pines Road and Trent Avenue.

“We were lucky it was in the spring instead of the summer,” Miller said. “The fuels were still a little bit green, so they’re not burning like they could be.”

In a sign of warmer weather, though, firefighters discovered seven legal recreational fires when they responded to 11 reports of illegal burning.

“We do this all summer long,” Miller said.

People see smoke in someone’s backyard and, suspecting illegal burning, call the fire department.

“The fire code does allow warming and cooking fires with some caveats, and those are all listed on our Web site,,” Miller said.

He said the rest of the 11 reports of illegal burning were valid. A couple involved yard waste, which no longer may be burned legally anywhere in the department’s territory. The Spokane Valley Fire Department serves Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Millwood and nearby unincorporated areas.

After a two-week period last month, Miller said, burning yard waste without a permit became permanently illegal anywhere in Spokane County except in Fire District 2 in the Fairfield area, Fire District 5 west of Airway Heights, Fire District 11 in the Rockford area and Fire District 12 in the Latah area. More information on that is available on the Web at

Reports of an explosion about midnight May 14 were believed to have been prompted by a blown electrical transformer. Miller said firefighters found no evidence of an explosion in the vicinity of 18th Avenue and Balfour Road, but noticed the area seemed to have a power outage.

A dozen vehicle accidents included eight without injuries, two with minor injuries and one that claimed the life of 56-year-old Billie Kay Johnson of Otis Orchards.

Miller said Johnson’s vehicle left the road near the corner of Trent Avenue and Harvard Road shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday and rolled several times. He said firefighters extricated Johnson from the wreckage in three minutes, but she had no pulse and couldn’t be revived. She was pronounced dead at a hospital.

About 7 p.m. Wednesday, a man who reportedly had been driving at high speed near the corner of Bowdish Road and Montgomery Avenue suffered a back injury when his car rolled. Miller said the car landed on its roof, leaving the driver hanging upside down from his seatbelt.

John Craig may be contacted at
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