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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

World War II veteran dies in house fire in North Spokane

A 95-year-old man died in a house fire on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (Nina Culver)

A 95-year-old man died in a house fire early Saturday morning and his son was injured while trying to rescue him.

The Spokane Fire Department was called to 1927 W. Fairview Ave. at 3:40 a.m. Saturday. A smoke alarm woke the son, who tried to reach his father’s bedroom, said Acting Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. His efforts were unsuccessful.

“We found him on the floor,” Shaeffer said of the father. “It appeared that he was trying to escape.”

The fire had grown too large and hot and was in the ceiling when fire crews arrived, Shaeffer said.

Family members identified the victim as Morris Slavens, a World War II veteran.

Slavens’ son, Mike Slavens, was living in the home to help care for his father, said Catherine Ost, the victim’s granddaughter. The son’s lungs were burned in the fire and he is in a medically induced coma at a local hospital, she said.

Danny Patterson, who lives next door, said he and his family watched the fire after they were evacuated from their home, which is only a few feet away from Slavens’ home. “The fire department woke us up,” he said. “They almost knocked our door down.”

“He’s been a great neighbor,” Patterson said of Slavens. “He’d bring cookies over.”

Ost described her grandfather is an “old-school type of guy.” He bought his home in North Spokane shortly after World War II and significantly enlarged it.

“He bought this when it was a one-room house,” she said. “He built the basement. He built the garage.”

Slavens was the head of Spokane’s unemployment office before he retired, Ost said. He had been in declining health for the past several months.

“Up until last summer he still mowed his lawn,” she said.

His wife of 64 years, Lucille, died of cancer in 2010. Slavens took care of her while her health deteriorated, Ost said. He often said that it was his time to take care of her after she had taken care of him for so many years, she said.

“They were just a super awesome couple,” she said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.