Browne's Addition Apartment Fire

Tour Commander, 509.625.7100

Friday, January 14, 2022 at 8:17 a.m.

At 11:28 am on 13 January 2022, the Spokane Fire Department (SFD) responded to an apartment fire with reports from occupants of flames visible on the ceiling. The first SFD company was on the scene in under two minutes and quickly located the fire on the second floor by opening the void areas above the living spaces. A mere few minutes later, the fire was confined, while other firefighters searched the structure for any residual fire in walls and ceilings.

This Browne's Addition building was built in 1872 as a single-family residence. The structure was modified from a single-family home to a commercial building. It served the neighborhood as a cafe and a five-unit apartment building throughout the years following construction. Many Spokane neighborhoods are filled with renovated spaces that take advantage of larger homes and modify them to accommodate "units" or smaller living spaces for separate occupants. Unfortunately, the frequent remodeling and structural changes often create void areas inaccessible or visible by occupants--but not from fire.  

In this case, the fire occurred during the daylight, and the occupants were awake. The fire burned unnoticed in a void space above living areas until it was large enough to burn through the ceiling and be detected by family members. Although the occupants had smoke alarms, they did not activate. The smoke that would usually contact the technology in the detector was contained within the void space, and the fire was well developed before smoke ever entered the presence of smoke alarms.

The fire damage was limited to structural joists located in the ceiling, adjacent insulation, and combustibles nearby in the attic. The cause was determined to be an electrical malfunction in the structure's wiring. All occupants were awake and able to evacuate the structure unharmed.

Despite our quick response and efforts limiting loss, seven occupants were displaced due to this fire. The Greater Inland Northwest Red Cross is working with the occupants to find shelter until the damage can be repaired.

Media- Please share this educational message:

Electrical work should be done only by a qualified professional and inspected frequently. Call the landlord and a qualified professional if you have recurring problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers, experiencing a tingling feeling when you touch an electric appliance or having flickering lights.

In renovated buildings, aging electrical systems were often never designed to accommodate a load of today's devices and multiple tenants. As a result, tenants should watch closely for signs of overloaded circuits or old wiring (frequently aluminum) that can generate heat and report findings to building owners.