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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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High-rise retirement community in north Spokane evacuated after fire

UPDATED: Mon., April 9, 2018

A fire forced the evacuation of the top floors of a high-rise senior living complex in north Spokane early Monday.

The fire, which originated in the air conditioning unit in an elevator shaft, was reported at about 4 a.m. at the Lilac Plaza Retirement Community, 7007 N. Wiscomb St. The cause of the fire, firefighters determined, was electrical.

Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said waist-high smoke was reported on floors 11, 12 and 14 (the complex does not have a 13th floor), which prompted the evacuation of residents living on those floors.

Some residents were reportedly carried down the stairs by firefighters, though Glen Pierce, the CEO of Spokane Baptist Association of Homes, which owns and operates the Lilac Plaza, said he spoke to several residents and couldn’t find anyone who had to be carried down. He said the plaza’s stairs do not have lifts to carry people down, though the elevators were working.

“I’ve talked to some residents and haven’t found one yet who got carried down,” he said. “They did want to get residents out of there. I’m not quite sure how they did it.”

Pierce said the fire originated in an air conditioning unit above the top floor, and only a little smoke escaped on floors below. Firefighters and residents said there was a smell of smoke throughout the building.

One resident was transported to a local hospital for evaluation for smoke inhalation and was later released, firefighters said. There were no serious injuries or injuries to firefighters.

“There were a number of … anxiety-related concerns,” Schaeffer said. “It’s an at-risk population, though very resilient, but at the same time we had to evacuate some.”

Numerous Spokane Transit Authority buses staged outside for residents to sit in while firefighters cleared the scene. Several ambulances also were called to the scene.

“It was a pretty large state of operation for us,” Schaeffer said.

By 6 a.m., most of the smoke had been cleared and residents were allowed to re-enter.

Judi Wilks, 73, was out at about 7 a.m. walking her Pekingese Pomeranian and Shih Tzu mix that was born on October 10, 2010 and appropriately named Tenley.

Wilks said she lives on the 11th floor and was abruptly awoken at 4 a.m. to a fire alarm and the smell of smoke.

“And it kept going off,” she said. “Then the fire trucks started coming.”

About 70 firefighters were called to the scene.

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