Firefighters Quick Actions Prevent Electrical Fire from Spreading Into Home

Justin de Ruyter, Spokane Fire PIO,

Wednesday, January 17, 2024 at 2:58 p.m.

At 8:34 a.m. today, the Spokane Fire Department responded to a call in the 4000 block of North Ash St regarding a detached garage fire behind a residence. Upon discovering the fire, the occupants promptly evacuated, dialed 9-1-1, and informed emergency responders that an electrical malfunction triggered the fire. They also noted that an enclosed breezeway connected the garage to the main house. Additional 9-1-1 callers reported observing heavy smoke issuing from the garage.

Within four minutes of the dispatch, Engine 3 and Quint 13 arrived at the scene, confirming a fire in the breezeway with a potential threat of extension into the garage and home. Firefighters from Quint 13 quickly searched the home and garage, which had been converted into a living space, ensuring that all occupants and pets had safely evacuated. Simultaneously, firefighters from Engine 3 deployed a fire-attack hoseline to address the fire in the breezeway. Tower 2 joined the operation, creating ventilation holes in the roof to support the efforts below and prevent the fire from penetrating the attic space of the garage. The swift actions of the firefighters successfully contained the fire within 20 minutes, preventing further extension into the garage and primary residence and preventing the occupants from being displaced.

A fire investigator from the Special Investigations Unit examined the scene and determined that an overloaded outlet circuit, caused by multiple portable space heaters plugged into a single outlet, was the root cause of the fire. The investigator emphasized the misconception that plugging multiple high-wattage appliances into various outlets or even the two receptacles of one outlet is safe. In a typical home, one circuit can power multiple outlets or rooms, with each outlet having two receptacles. While circuit breakers are safety devices, they do not always activate before a fire starts. Therefore, citizens are urged to consult licensed electricians to ensure the safe use of multiple high-wattage appliances without overloading their electrical systems.

The incident resulted in damage and loss estimates amounting to $15,000. However, the prompt response and actions of the firefighters played a crucial role in preventing further losses, saving over $360,000 in terms of the home and its contents. Importantly, no injuries were reported among the public or the firefighters involved in the incident.

Spokane Fire expresses gratitude to Avista Utilities for their swift response and assistance in safely disconnecting power to the affected area while maintaining power to the main home. Special thanks also go to the Spokane Police Department for their support in temporarily closing the southbound lanes of North Ash Street. This ensured a safe working environment for firefighters, especially considering today's heavy snowfall.

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