Fire chief: Cigarette butt to blame for deadly north Spokane house fire

SPOKANE, Wash.– Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer says a cigarette butt that wasn’t put out fully is what caused a deadly house fire Sunday in north Spokane.

It started when Spokane firefighters responded to an explosion call at E. Nebraska Ave and N. Perry St. Sunday afternoon. They found a house engulfed in flames, as well as two-car fires when they arrived. Schaeffer says the fire started on a coach that was used while people were smoking on the front porch.

“I can guarantee this family and many of us, didn’t expect at 2:00 or 2:30 in the afternoon to witness or be a part of a tragedy,” Schaeffer said.

Firefighters say the fire killed a 17-year-old girl with autism and her parents. Her father was 45 and her mother was 39. Schaeffer says the teen was upstairs with headphones on when the fire started tearing through the house. He said both parents tried to get her out of the home. Two other family members were in the home- and they made it out.

“The mother comes down what’s left of the stairs, and directly into the fireball. Well over 90-percent, third-degree, full-thickness burns,” Schaeffer said.

Neighbors out on the lawn were yelling at the mother, telling her to drop and roll. But given the traumatic situation, and incredible pain, she wasn’t able to. For the neighbors who were standing by, the hair on their skin started to burn because of the heat coming from the fire, Schaeffer explained.

While standing inside the totally charred home, still dripping with water and smelling of smoke, Schaeffer continued to describe the scene,

“Back in here, dad runs upstairs and that was the last time he saw the first floor. He and his daughter succumb to the fire and combustion, nearly immediately. The temperatures here and upstairs are well over 1,000 degrees.”

According to Schaeffer, it appeared they were trying to make it to the window, but they simply didn’t have enough time.

“You can see the stairs are burned out so there was no way to get up there to make a standard or routine search.”

It doesn’t matter what part of town or what social class someone is part of- this can happen to anyone,  Schaeffer told us.

” There’s a lesson to be learned here, for all of us. We should do it tonight. We need to make sure our smoke detectors are at least outside of all sleeping areas and on each floor. We need to make sure if we do have occupancies on the 2nd floor, that those rooms have an escape ladder or an identified second way out.”

He says if there had been smoke detectors or an escape ladder at the home, there could have been a much different outcome.

Anyone looking to help can find the family’s GoFundMe page here. 

PREVIOUS: Third person dies of injuries suffered in N. Spokane house fire

PREVIOUS: Two people dead, two injured in north Spokane house fire