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SVFD launches program to educate apartment managers and staff about fire safety

Aug. 16, 2021 Updated Tue., Aug. 17, 2021 at 9:28 p.m.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department Administration Building is shown.  (The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Valley Fire Department Administration Building is shown. (The Spokesman-Review)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Valley Fire Department has launched an online Apartment Manager Safety Class designed to educate apartment complex managers about fire safety, fire sprinkler system management and other issues related to department visits to local apartment complexes.

“It’s really not just for apartment managers but apartment staff, including maintenance personnel,” said Fire Marshal Greg Rogers. “We’re trying to educate them and create a partnership.”

The safety class was first launched last year as an in-person class. One session was held before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and further classes were canceled. Now it’s back as a virtual class online, which allows participants to complete sessions at their own pace.

There’s a quiz at the end of each session and when the entire class is finished, the participant earns a certificate. If every employee at an apartment complex earns a certificate, the facility can be certified as a Fire Safe Place, Rogers said. He hopes the program will become something tenants look for and expect.

The certification is good for three years and can be renewed if all apartment complex staff members again take the class.

The key is that an apartment complex fire can displace multiple residents and complex owners should have a plan for what to do in that situation, Rogers said. That’s something the class will help with. It will teach complex managers what their legal obligations are and help them meet those requirements.

The sessions also include information on CPR, stopping a bleed, maintenance of smoke alarms and fire sprinklers, why it is beneficial to keep dryer vents clean and the importance of keeping fire lanes clear.

One of the common causes of fires in apartment complexes is someone using a potted plant in which to put out cigarettes, Rogers said. That’s something that is not recommended. “In the summer it dries out,” he said.

People think of potting soil as dirt, but it isn’t, Rogers said. It’s a mix of soil, wood and other materials.

“Potting soil is not really soil,” he said. “It’s almost like a pot of trash.”

And if the pot isn’t well watered, the potting soil can catch fire.

“It can sit there and smolder for days and days,” he said. “You won’t see a bit of smoke.”

Then all that’s needed is a bit of wind to fan the flames into life, and soon a fire is spreading from someone’s balcony.

Cooking fires also account for quite a few apartment fires, including fires started by barbecues.

“We do talk about barbecue safety,” he said of the class.

Of all the different types of barbecues, including charcoal and propane, Rogers said he recommends pellet barbecues.

“They don’t put out as much heat as the other ones,” he said.

The class includes eight different sessions that run between 45 minutes and 60 minutes long. Rogers said he hopes it will benefit both the department and the apartment complexes and their tenants. He said he’d heard from fire departments in Coeur d’Alene as well as all over the country who want to copy the class in their area.

Registration is now open for the free program at spokanevalleyfire.com or by contacting the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s Prevention Division at (509) 928-1700.

Once people have registered online, they will be sent the links needed for the classes.

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