A ride-along with Spokane Fire Department | Crime
I spent my 4th of July evening with Spokane Fire Department. Around 5 p.m., the shift started with fire marshals to enforce fire code in Riverfront Park and patrolling for fireworks offenders in South Spokane. Around 8:40 p.m., I was switched over to Spokane Fire Station 4 to follow around their station’s B-shift firefighters.
During the eight hour ride-along, we responded to five incidents including a possible structure fire, down light pole, seizure, haz mat and alleged stabbing.
Below is a timeline of events as they happened. We were tweeting the incidents last night as well. To read the tweets as they happened, read our Storify for “Tweet-Cap: A Ride-Along with Spokane Fire Department”. It’s a variety of information on each format. There’s more “color commentary” and photos on the recap of tweets.
5:03 p.m. - Ride-along begins in a very fluid way at Fire Station 1 in downtown Spokane. Assistant fire marshal Mike Miller greets me at the door and we head out on foot to Riverfront Park to begin enforcing vendor compliance for fire code. It's part of the deal when it comes to special events permits in the park.
Miller has been assistant fire marshal for about five years, but he's been in the fire department for about 21 years. There's a huge shift in the job when you go from fire suppression to code enforcement. 90% of his job is dealing with new businesses, construction and new licenses.
5:18 p.m. - When we stopped by vendors, it was to mostly double check on their use of propane tanks. Our first top to a kettle corn vendor was to tell them their tanks were too close to the heat source (kettle). The manager complied and we even bumped into him at more kettle corn vendors as he told his employees to move the tanks further away.
Miller says most of these vendors do so many events that the codes tend to blend together. With a code book inches thick, it's hard to be educated about everything. His trip around the park is aimed to educate vendors. Miller added that it takes vendors about two years of experience with training to really understand the fire codes.
5:23 p.m. - We stopped by the fireworks zone and Dale with the pyrotechnic teams says the 1,200 shells were ready to go. The surrounding area was closed off by 9:30 p.m. There's a patch of green grass under a tree near the zone that Miller says guys like to take their gals for a show. They are quickly discovered and shooed away.
5:50 p.m. - We discover that the Garbage Eating Goat is “out of order”.
5:57 p.m. - We bump into the patrolling paramedics on bicycles. They report no incidents to respond to in Riverfront Park as of that time.
6:36 p.m. - I’m handed off to fire marshal Lisa Jones and fire investigator Jim Bowen during their firework enforcement patrol. Jones said they had already issued two citations at $513 each. Fireworks of any kind are illegal in the city, even sparklers.
6:50 p.m. - We pass through the South Perry Business District. All is well.
7:20 p.m. - We drive through the Eagle Ridge neighborhood along Highway 195. We discuss fire safety for homes including how far back a tree line should be and suggested materials for a fire safe home. Most homes in the neighborhood use vinyl siding which is inexpensive, but can be highly flammable.
7:33 p.m. - We pass through Browne’s Addition. All is well.
7:48 p.m. - We stop by the Public Safety Building to educate the incoming police shift on the fireworks ban and how they can enforce it. Police officers can write the citations as well and drop off confiscated fireworks with the fire marshal.
8:20 p.m. - A third fireworks citation has been issued near Arlington Elementary by another fireworks patrol. Meanwhile, we hunt through the West Central neighborhood looking for the violators we can hear, but can’t seem to find by going up and down the streets.
8:43 p.m. - I’m dropped off at Fire Station 4, located at 1515 W. 1st near Browne’s Addition, where firefighters are waiting for their next call. While they’re waiting, they’re watching the second episode of The Newsroom.
The station is home for 28 guys twice a week for a 24 hour shift. There's no women currently assigned to that particular station so it's all men. The b-shift started at 8 a.m.
8:58 p.m. - There’s a report of a “structure fire” at Maple and Wilson. Firefighters immediately rush out to the garage and pile into the trucks. We arrived within minutes to actually find a downed light pole. Somebody knocked it over.
Two lanes are blocked while police and fire cleanup the scene. Flares are lit by a responding police officer.
9:21 p.m. - There’s a call of a 30 year-old man experiencing a seizure near Boone and Ash. We arrive to find him talking slowly, but is able to answer simple questions. You can smell alcohol around the home. The man says he had been drinking.
He also declines to go to the hospital. He signs paperwork to say he declined medical attention when recommended.
11:08 p.m. - We’re called out a report of a “structure fire”. We arrived to the homeowner waiting for us in his driveway. He woke up to a loud electrical “pop” and could smell smoke. He admits he may have jumped the gun.
Firefighters use a thermal imaging camera to detect any sources of heat. They didn’t find anything. The homeowner then thinks he probably woke up to the sound and smell of nearby fireworks.
11:26 p.m. - Fire Marshal Lisa Jones calls me to say there were 11 total citations issued for fireworks for the night. That’s $5,643 total in fines at $513 each. They did not have the total number of citations issued by police.
12:00 a.m. - A hazmat situation was reported at 3rd and Monroe. When we arrived, complainants said they spilled a minor amount of gasoline, about a quart worth. The minor spill was cleaned up.
12:20 a.m. - There’s a report of stabbing in downtown Spokane. Little information was known, but while we were en route, the call was canceled and we turned around back to Fire Station 4.
Due to the severity of the call, it wasn't announced on Spokane Fire's Twitter like some calls. When we heard the dispatch, the automated voice said "STAND BACK" which tells fire to wait for police to get in there and handle it.
12:37 a.m. - End ride-along.