A man and a woman died in an apartment fire Wednesday afternoon in north Spokane, and a firefighter was hospitalized with severe burns.
The two-alarm fire started around 4 p.m. at the Rosewood Club Apartments at 401 E. Magnesium Road, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.
Neighbors said the man and woman who died were in their mid- to late 60s. The woman was disabled and bedridden and used oxygen, and the man cared for her full time, said Carman Nelson and Aaron Winn, who lived above the two.
Based on the fire’s intensity and rapid spread, an oxygen explosion is the “likely scenario,” Schaeffer said at the scene Wednesday.
Brian Tozier, also a resident of the apartment complex, said he was barbecuing on a first-floor patio and heard and saw an explosion. The sliding glass door of the unit where the couple lived blew out; the explosion “took the shrubs and everything out,” Tozier said.
He added, “They were a real nice couple.”
The injured firefighter, a 29-year-old who joined the Spokane Fire Department about a year ago, was burned on his upper torso when he led his crew in trying to enter the apartment, Schaeffer said. He’s hospitalized in serious condition at Sacred Heart Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns.
Schaeffer said the firefighter, whom he declined to name, broke in the door to the apartment unit and as he did so, the room exploded. The firefighter was working with Engine 18 and was two weeks away from ending his probationary period with the Spokane Fire Department.
Schaeffer said he talked to the firefighter, who was joking with his colleagues.
“His main concern is that the rest of his crew is OK,” Schaeffer said.
Such a serious injury is a rare occurrence among Spokane firefighters, Schaeffer said.
“I couldn’t tell you when the last time was,” he said.
The American Red Cross responded to the apartment complex to provide aid to residents whose apartments were damaged or destroyed. A Red Cross representative said he believed about 24 units were affected.
The apartment complex is owned by an out-of-state company based in Colorado, property records show. Its 2017 assessed value was about $6.9 million.
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