Cheney motel that caught on fire shows previous history of complaints from locals

CHENEY, Wash. — Early Tuesday morning, a huge fire tore through a motel in Cheney, prompting everyone to evacuate the building.

After looking deeper into the property’s history, it turns out that people in the neighborhood have been filing complaints with police and code enforcement for months.

From 2021 to May 2022, the city’s dispatch center has gotten 176 calls from the motel. City officials say they are going to lock the site down to keep people safe.

“There were numerous complaints,” City Administrator at the City of Cheney Mark Schuller said. “People who live in the neighborhood… just a condition of the property and some criminal activity.”

Even with the large fire that ripped through the motel, City officials say this particular property has been a major headache for the city and neighbors for months.

“There have been numerous EMS and police calls to this location,” Schuller said.

“It’s old,” April Atkinson, a neighbor in the area, said. “There are really not nice people living there. It’s just gotten worse throughout the last few months. I’m surprised that it lasted this long to not burn down.”

The city says that the building was not running as a motel, but instead, it was running as an apartment with long-term lease agreements.

“We engaged the property owner… gave him a couple of options,” Schuller said. “Either [they can] operate it as it was supposed to be run… or they could request a zone change.”

City Officials also say that the property manager failed to sign a voluntary compliance agreement.

“The criminal complaint was the issue there’s a monetary fine for that,” Schuller said. “That will go through the legal process of course. As it stands right now, we got [an] unsafe structure that the city is putting some options on taking care of.”

The city is saying that the property owner asked to demolish the property, but the manager has not yet given the city a set time to clear the building.

“We got a lot of public safety representing officers that will have to remain on the scene to make sure that the fire doesn’t flare up again, which is tying up our resources,” Schuller said. “So we are trying to find a clear path out as quickly as possible.”

City officials are in contact with the Spokane Fire Department to further investigate the cause of the fire.

RELATED: No one injured in Cheney motel fire