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Sunday, June 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fire officials will visit residents by request to assess risk and form escape plan

Sienna Kaufman’s most treasured possessions are four stuffed animals and her dog, Bella. She is 8 years old and lives with her mom Ryna Kaufman in a neat manufactured home in Otis Orchards.

Last week, the Kaufmans had a visit from Spokane Valley Fire Department, not because they had a fire, but because they are doing their best to prevent one and be prepared just in case something happens.

“I’ve always heard that these homes go up in a flash,” Ryna Kaufman said, snapping her fingers.

She signed up as soon as she learned of Spokane Valley Fire Department’s Project Risk, which offers a home visit by department staff to check smoke detectors, installing new ones where appropriate, and put together a fire escape plan for the home’s occupants.

Spokane Valley Fire Department’s community risk reduction specialist Elysia Spencer and Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford went through the home with Sienna and Kaufman.

Spencer started in Sienna’s room where the two acted out how Sienna would roll off her bed, feel the door to see if it was hot and stay low to the ground as she crawled over to and opened her window to climb out.

That’s when Sienna hesitated. She grabbed her favorite stuffed animals and looked at Spencer:

“Can I take them with me?” she asked.

Spencer asked the girl if the stuffed animals were alive and Sienna shook her head no.

“What’s the most important to get out of here?” Spencer asked.

Sienna pointed to herself, to mom and then added Bella.

“If there’s a fire we have to get you out of here first,” Spencer said. “If you are already holding your stuffed animals, you can take them. But you can never go back in and get them.”

Sienna made a pinky promise with Spencer that she would not go back in if the house was on fire.

While Spencer worked on the fire escape plan, Clifford checked the home’s smoke detectors and replaced some.

Clifford said batteries should be exchanged every six months, but some new smoke detectors come with 10-year batteries.

“That means they never run out,” Clifford said.

The material inside the alarm that detects the smoke doesn’t last more than 10 years.

Spencer told Sienna it’s important to sleep with the bedroom door closed, something that can be a little scary for children.

“If there’s a fire and the house is full of smoke and flames, a closed door will buy you an extra 3 minutes,” Spencer said.

Kaufman and Sienna had already agreed on a meeting spot outside the house – a crucial part of a fire escape plan – at a shed.

Kaufman wanted to know if that was far enough away from the house in case of a fire.

“You want to be at least 50 feet from the burning building,” Clifford said. “It may be a little close, but we can check it out.”

Spokane Valley Fire Department’s home visit program is funded by state and federal grants, and it’s free to homeowners in the district.

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