Investigators determine smoking materials sparked fire at high-rise

Brian Schaeffer, Assistant Chief, 509.625.7002

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 12:58 p.m.

A fire in a high-rise building downtown yesterday afternoon temporarily displaced over one-hundred residents and brought temporary closure of a busy thoroughfare through a period of rush hour. The blaze, reported to the Communication’s Center at 3:35 PM, eventually brought over 60 firefighters to 217 West Spokane Falls Boulevard at the Park Tower Apartments.

The fire was reported by numerous residents and from passersby as it was seen throughout the downtown area as heavy smoke emanated from an apartment unit on the 17th floor of the building. The building’s fire alarm was activated and many of the occupants from the building’s 184 units were sent evacuating thought the interior stairs. ┬áSome residents reported encountering dense smoke as they attempted to escape through the stairways and were assisted in their descent by firefighters. Eventually, many of the 180 residents were sheltered in-place by fire companies that were working on floors below the fire while those in floors above the fire were evacuated.

The incident was immediately upgraded to a three-alarm fire and summoned all of SFD’s available resources as well as multiple mutual-aid companies from Spokane Valley Fire Department, Fire District 8 and multiple others for assistance with coverage and simultaneous incident responses.

Since this building is not protected by a fire sprinkler system, firefighters were forced to climb to the 17th floor via stairwells with all of their firefighting equipment and stretch attack lines to the fire floor and receive high pressurized water supply from the building’s standpipes via fire engines on the street. The process of moving equipment and supplies in a high-rise during a fire is extremely personnel-intensive and requires a significant amount of resources.

The fire was fully extinguished and declared under control at 4:02 p.m. - and no injuries were reported. Family members from a 17th floor apartment were displaced by the fire, and referred to the American Red Cross for assistance. Many of the residents received care and medical treatment from SFD and AMR Paramedics including some meals and temporary sheltering provided by the neighboring Azteca restaurant for those residents who were at-risk from disease processes such as diabetes and others.

A total of four Ladders, eleven Engines, two Medical Service Officers, one Heavy Rescue, two Safety Officers and three Quints responded to the multi-alarm incident.

The cause of the nature of the fire was determined to be accidental and cause was smoking materials.