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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Woman left with serious burns after running into burning house in East Central Spokane to save dogs

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 26, 2021

A woman sustained serious burns Tuesday morning after running back into her burning East Central home in an attempt to save her two dogs that later died in the fire.

Just after 11:30 a.m. the Spokane Fire Department was sent to 2428 Fifth Ave. after a 911 caller reported the house was on fire, said Battalion Chief Mike Bacon.

Firefighters saw the column of smoke as they drove to the scene and more crews were dispatched, Bacon said. When they arrived minutes later, the fire had engulfed the back bedroom of the home, Bacon said.

Christopher Majoros said he was working a few blocks away when Catrina Houseman, 45, his former girlfriend with whom he still lives , texted him that their house was on fire. Houseman has had mental health issues for years and told him she set the fire, Majoros said.

After missing her medication Monday night, Majoros said he expected today to be a rough day but “I didn’t think it would be this bad.”

Majoros said he drove home as quickly as he could and arrived to see Houseman stumble out the side door after going back in to try and save their dogs. She was covered in soot and burns, he said.

“She almost didn’t make it out,” he said.

Majoros attempted to go into the house to save their two dogs, Sammy, a Carolina dog, and Diesel, a Jack Russell terrier, but the smoke was too thick, he said.

Neighbors James and Brandy Ellsworth were sitting in bed Tuesday morning when they heard yelling next door. The Ellsworths said they are used to “episodes” from their neighbor and usually just mind their own business but this time the yelling got louder.

They went outside to see flames coming out of their neighbor’s bedroom window.

“We could feel the heat,” Brandy Ellsworth said.

Brandy Ellsworth said she called 911. .

“She came out and she was on the ground,” Brandy Ellsworth said. “(Majoros) knocked out the window trying to call for the dogs and stuff and then he tried to bang in the front door to get the dogs out.”

Houseman had burns around her face and was taken to the hospital shortly after ambulances arrived on scene, Bacon said. She was classified at level “red,” the highest level of injury before death, when taken to the hospital, Bacon said. She was in stable condition as of 1:30 p.m., according to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

About six fire engines and 28 firefighters responded to the scene and were quickly able to put out the fire, Bacon said.

Firefighters entered the house to look for the two dogs but discovered they had died, Bacon said.

When firefighters carried one of the dogs’ bodies out of the house, Brandy Ellsworth said, she imagined how she would feel if that was her dog and burst into tears.

Majoros said that Houseman has struggled to get help from psychologists who can provide the level of care she needs and take her health insurance. After multiple 10-day stretches of inpatient treatment, calling multiple mental health and resource hotlines, Houseman still couldn’t get help, Majoros said.

Houseman also didn’t like being medicated and often missed doses, he said.

“Finally, I just broke down and was just like, I’ll just pay for a psychiatrist, a private one. I don’t care, at this point, it’s just getting so bad,” Majoros said.

An initial investigation showed that Houseman likely started the fire, said Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. The department anticipates criminal charges, he said.

Bacon said residents should not go back into their home for pets but instead wait for firefighters who are equipped to enter burning buildings.

“Luckily, she didn’t die, but she could have,” Bacon said.

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