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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hazardous material not cause of stench

A Liberty Lake family now has a funny story to tell after a natural gas smell in their home on Christmas Day turned out to me something entirely different.

The call launched a hazardous materials response by Spokane Valley Fire. Firefighters checked the gas appliances and ventilated the home, said Assistant Fire Marshall Bill Clifford. “The smell was still there,” Clifford said. “They could smell a pungent odor that was similar to natural gas but they couldn’t locate it.”

Firefighters launched a search to see what was causing the stench. “It was a bag of broccoli that was in the sink,” he said. “They brought the bag of broccoli outside the house and ventilated it, which took care of the smell.”

It was a moment of levity much appreciated by the firefighters.

A faulty power strip apparently caused a fire Dec. 23 in the historic Cliff House Arbor Crest Winery at 4705 N. Fruithill Road. “Sometimes those just fail,” Clifford said. “That place up there didn’t have a fire or burglary alarm. If it would have, there would have been a lot less damage.”

While the building sustained $400,000 in damage, the structure itself is sound and the building was insured. “It appears it can be rebuilt as it stands. It won’t have to be torn down.”

A medical call on Dec. 20 had a tragic end when firefighters discovered that a 78-year old man had burned to death in the 18300 block of East Liberty. The man was working in his garage and had a portable ceramic heater that was mounted on the top of a propane tank. That type of heater has no shielding and gets extremely hot. “It’s just like a stove top when the burners get red hot,” Clifford said. “Apparently he backed into that, which caught his coat on fire.”

The man left the garage and was able to take off his coat, but by that time the rest of his clothes were on fire. He suffered severe burns and died.

He cautioned that space heaters must be kept 36 inches away from all combustibles and a heater like the one involved in this incident needs even more. Space heaters are often the culprit for fire calls in cold weather. “They are dangerous,” he said.

The department also responded to two small chimney fires, a dumpster fire and a business that had a pile of oily rags catch on fire. Two cars had fires in engine compartments and a van at a carpet cleaning business at 3110 N. Ella Road was a total loss. A kerosene space heater was left running in the van overnight to keep carpet cleaning chemicals from freezing and it caused a fire severe enough to burn a hole in the floor of the van.

There were 22 motor vehicle accidents in the last two weeks which sent nine people to the hospital with moderate to critical injuries. The most serious crash on Dec. 29 sent two teenage girls to the hospital after their SUV slid sideways into a metal power pole as they came around a corner on the Wellesley overpass near Otis Orchards. “Both the girls were knocked unconscious,” Clifford said. “One was taken by ambulance, one was transported by helicopter. It was pretty intense out there.”

There were 317 medical calls out of the 389 calls that came in during the two weeks. Of those 14 were service calls, which included nine homes with frozen pipes, two people locked out of their homes, one child locked in a car and a water main break at 117 S. Manifold Road on Dec. 19.

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