Three Lives Saved: Family Credits SFD Installed Smoke Alarms

Jamie McIntyre, 509.435.7058

Friday, July 31, 2020 at 4:23 p.m.

Manufactured home owner on Inland Empire Way credits smoke alarms installed by Spokane Fire Department’s Smoke Alarm Install Program with alerting her to a fire in her home last night. The smoke alarm activation allowed her and her two great grandchildren to safely evacuate. “If it hadn’t have gone off, I wouldn’t have gotten the boys out,” Cheryl recounted.

On 7/30/20 at approximately 8:45pm Spokane Fire Department Tower 4 was dispatched to a house fire in the area of the 2000 block of S. Inland Empire Way to an address that this station, and very crew, visited a little over a year ago for a very different reason. To install smoke alarms in a home that did not have any. Cheryl, a great grandmother, reached out to the Spokane Fire Department’s Smoke Alarm Install Program to obtain smoke alarms for her home. Station 4 installed two free alarms in her home on 5/17/19. She recounted feeling gratitude on the install day because she lived on a fixed-income and didn't know when she'd be able to purchase alarms for her home. The alarms were installed and life went back to normal for Cheryl and her family.

A little over a year later, on 7/30/20 after putting her great grandchildren to bed she was sitting on her couch watching television when she heard her smoke alarm start beeping. She got up to investigate further “being on oxygen I can’t get there quickly.” Once she got to the hallway she noticed smoke and flames near the bedrooms. Cheryl immediately escorted her two great grandchildren out of the residence.

After getting the boys outside she went back into her home, to get water from the bathroom to put out the fire. As she turned around from the bathroom sink, Cheryl recalled seeing “rolling black smoke” and knew she needed to evacuate immediately. As she stepped out the door she grabbed her mobile phone so she could call 911. “I got out of there with nothing.” Just her mobile phone.

Upon arrival, crews found a manufactured home fully engulfed in flames with a second manufactured home next door on fire as well as an outbuilding and surrounding trees.

As fire crews arrived they were preparing for a search operation, it was initially reported that the owner of the manufactured home and her two great-grandchildren were still inside the burning structure. Within a few moments, it was discovered that they had already made it outside.

A total of 32 firefighters responded to this incident. No civilians or firefighters were injured. Unfortunately, between the two impacted manufactured homes, 4 adults and 2 children were displaced and are being assisted by the local chapter of American Red Cross. 2 dogs were found deceased and 1 dog is missing and has not been found.

?The manufactured home where the fire originated was a total loss, with significant damage to the second manufactured home and its contents. Additionally a 4 x 8 shed was destroyed situated between the two homes was a total loss as well. Total loss is estimated to be $100,000.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Spokane Fire Department Special Investigations Unit.

Spokane Fire Department is grateful that Cheryl and her family safely evacuated and that she was willing shared her story so others could learn. In a house fire, we encourage everyone to get out and stay out. Never go back in your home. Call 911 from the meeting place in front of your residence and wait for the firefighters to arrive.

Cheryl can attest, working smoke alarms save lives. Test your smoke alarms at least monthly. Replace alarms when they are ten years old, or no longer respond when tested. Know the power source of your smoke alarm. If it has batteries, change them at least annually.

As with many programs in our community, COVID-19 has impacted the SFD Smoke Alarm Install Program operations. If you are a homeowner, and unable to purchase smoke alarms, contact the SFD Community Risk Reduction Team at 509-625-7058. At this time we are compiling a waiting list and will resume ongoing installs once advised it is safe to do so.

If you have questions about home fire safety or smoke alarms, contact the SFD Community Risk Reduction Office at 509-625-7058.