Investigators Release Cause of Fatal House Fire

Justin de Ruyter, Spokane Fire PIO,

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 at 9:18 a.m.

Investigators from the Special Investigations Unit have concluded that the fatal fire at 3721 West Elmhurst Avenue on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, was deliberately started. Through interviews and a thorough examination of the scene, they believe the deceased adult male ignited the fire in the garage following an argument with his roommates. He then retreated to the bathroom, where firefighters later found him deceased.

It is suspected that the individual tampered with a natural gas line supplying the clothes dryer in the garage before igniting the fire, which may explain the rapid growth reported by witnesses. Additionally, the fully opened garage door provided ample oxygen for the fire, while an open door between the garage and living quarters allowed for the immediate spread of smoke and fire. Although the bathroom door was closed, external fire growth caused the window to fail, rapidly filling the room with smoke and poisonous gases.

Reports of explosions from witnesses were investigated and attributed to aerosol cans and propane cylinders in the garage; however, there is no evidence of any pre-manufactured explosive devices contributing to the fire.

The fire investigators thank the Spokane Police Department's Major Crimes Unit and the Spokane County Medical Examiner Office for cooperating with this investigation. The medical examiner's office will release the victim's identity.

The incident serves as a reminder always to close doors in case of fire. Images provided by investigators illustrate the difference between two bedrooms, one with an open door and one with a closed door. While both rooms suffered smoke damage, occupants in the closed-door room would likely have survived until rescued by firefighters. In contrast, those in the open-door room would have faced fatal smoke conditions within minutes. Closing doors help contain fires until help arrives, and sleeping with doors closed can provide crucial time for self-evacuation or survival until rescue.