Kay Workman started Tuesday morning like he always does. He woke up, shuffled his way into the kitchen and started making breakfast.
Except this morning, in the middle of cooking bacon and toast, nature called and he had to use the bathroom. He wasn’t gone more than three or four minutes, he said, but when he returned to the kitchen, awaiting him was a stove fire.
Not thinking, and perhaps still a little groggy, he threw a pail of water on it. And then it poofed, fizzled, and spread.
“Within two or three minutes the whole home was on fire,” he said Tuesday morning, staring at the pile of blackened wood and billowing smoke in the Indian Canyon Mobile Home Park. “I just bought new furniture, too.”
Firefighters from Spokane County Fire District 10, Spokane Fire Department and Airway Heights received the call just before 9 a.m. but by then, it was too late. Workman’s neighbor, Julie Brown, said by the time the first engine parked, flames had overtaken the building and were shooting outward, several feet above its slanted roof.
Her house, in addition to others nearby, were damaged by the flames. The plastic siding clinging to the facades warped and melted. Brown’s flag, somehow, remained in tact, even though it was directly in front of a portion of her house that melted away.
“Right?” she said of her American flag, waving in the morning breeze. “Old Glory.”
Workman said when he first saw his kitchen in flames, he quickly ran out of the house, searching for his garden hose to suppress the blaze. But as quickly as it took him to get out, the fire had already grown.
“It wouldn’t have helped,” he said.
So instead, he ran to Brown’s, knocked on her door and told her to move her car further from the fire. She drove her Dodge Challenger a few feet down the road and joined the rest of the neighborhood in marveling at the spectacularly warm orange glow. Workman sat in the bed of his truck, smoking a cigarette as smoke surrounded him.
“You wouldn’t believe the heat,” said neighbor Maggie Patterson. “I got out to my shed and you could just feel it everywhere.”
Patterson stuck around, with a handful of others, to watch the firefighters suppress the blaze. The community said they’d never seen anything like this in all their years together. Brown gave Workman a playful ribbing for almost burning the whole place down.
“Huge flames,” chimed in Phyllis Simmons. “Way high up.”
Workman said he bought the house for just $2,000 about four years ago, and since then has put over $30,000 into it. The 70-year-old retired truck driver said he has fire insurance, but it won’t replace the sentimental value of the pictures, furniture and other items that have been in his family for years.
He lived alone, and said he’d most likely stay with his daughter who lives on Francis Avenue. After that, and after the insurance is taken care of, he’ll move back home to the tight-knit community of Indian Canyon Mobile Home Park.
“I’ll tear that down, get another trailer and start over,” he said. “I love it here.”
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