Arctic Temperatures Keep Spokane Firefighters Busy

Justin de Ruyter, Spokane Fire PIO,

Tuesday, January 16, 2024 at 4:17 p.m.

The arctic air responsible for bringing extremely low temperatures in the region has kept Spokane firefighters busy fighting fires over the last few days. Four “working” fires were reported over a three-day period starting Saturday morning. All fires were fought in single-digit temperatures, with firefighters dealing with the nearly immediate icing of the water used for extinguishment. Firefighters had to take breaks to reheat often, as hyperthermia was a concern. Fighting fires in extremely low temperatures is dangerous for firefighters as they are more likely to suffer from cold stress, slippery surfaces, equipment malfunctions, reduced dexterity, dehydration, and frostbite.

The first fire was reported in the 1200 block of East 34th Ave on Saturday, January 13, 2024, at 7:40 a.m. An occupant of the residence reported they had a fire in the wall behind the chimney and advised responding firefighters that everyone was self-evacuating. Quint 11 arrived three minutes later and reported a 1-1/2-story residence with smoke from the attic. Engine 9 and Engine 14 assisted with deploying fire attack hoselines and secured a water supply to the local hydrant. Ladder 1 arrived, helped with ventilation, and confirmed that all occupants were evacuated. The fire was knocked down in about an hour, with no injuries to the public or firefighters reported. A fire investigator determined the cause to be overuse of the fireplace, with damages estimated to be over $500,000. There were three adults and three dogs displaced by this fire.

Firefighters responded to two working fires on Sunday, January 14, 2024. The first came at 10:02 a.m. in the 700 block of East Hartson Ave, called in by the occupant, who was awoken by the smoke alarm activating. Engine 7 arrived five minutes later and reported an electrical wiring fire in the kitchen. Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the room of origin quickly, but the fire was significant enough to displace two adults and cause an estimated $250,000 in loss. Investigators determined the cause to be vintage electrical wiring that failed.

The second fire on Sunday occurred at 3:46 p.m. in the 4100 block of West Queen Ave. It was reported by a neighbor who saw heavy, black smoke and ash from a residential home. Engine 16 arrived four minutes later and reported a single-story residential home with heavy smoke from the roof. Firefighters knocked the fire down in 20 minutes, but the home sustained heavy smoke and fire damage and displaced one adult. Loss damages are estimated to be $400,000; the fire cause was determined to be improper disposal of ashes from the fireplace.

Another fire occurred early Monday morning, January 15, 2024, at 12:40 a.m. in the 5500 block of North Milton St. The occupant called 9-1-1, reporting a fire in their attic, with all occupants evacuated. Engine 16 arrived in five minutes and confirmed heavy fire involvement in the attic. The fire was contained in the attic, but firefighting efforts caused significant damage to the home. The American Red Cross was called in to house two adults temporarily. Loss estimates are $250,000, with the fire caused by a heating system malfunction in the attic.

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