On Thursday, July 24, 2008, a three-alarm fire destroyed a portion of a commercial building in historic downtown Spokane. The three-story structure, known as the Joel Building, was a compilation of five buildings joined together, all with a single flat roof constructed of layers of wood board...
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On Thursday, July 24, 2008, a three-alarm fire destroyed a portion of a commercial building in historic downtown Spokane. The three-story structure, known as the Joel Building, was a compilation of five buildings joined together, all with a single flat roof constructed of layers of wood board covered with a thick rubber membrane. A series of firewalls divided the roof into five separate areas. Interior walls were covered by gypsum wallboard and flooring materials consisted of carpet and wood.
The building was divided into three sections containing Dorian Photography, Churchill's Restaurant and 16 condominiums. Dorian Photography contained a security system, but no fire protection or detection systems; Churchill's contained a fire alarm system and sprinklers and the condominiums contained sprinklers. The condominiums were under construction and in the shell stage with no contents. Before the current occupancies, the entire building was a home furnishings and specialty store, Joel Inc. Even earlier, the building had housed a brewery, a refrigeration business and a car dealership.
The Spokane Fire Department was dispatched for a smoke investigation at 161 South Post St. at 4:30 A.M. Spokane Engine 4, a 1,250-gpm pumper, responded with three firefighters under the direction of Firefighter/Acting Lieutenant Shawn Poole. Upon arrival at 4:37, the crew of Engine 4 found a smoldering fire in a recycling dumpster on the north side of the Joel building. As the dumpster was pulled away from the building, flames were coming out of a pipe chase leading from the basement of the building. The main body of fire was in the south and southeast areas of the Dorian basement.
Engine 4 was positioned on side Alpha of the building on Post Street. Firefighters advanced a 150-foot, 1¾-inch pre-connect to the area of the dumpster on the north side of the building and attempted to extinguish the fire in the dumpster and the pipe chase. Engine 4 was supplied by a five-inch line from a hydrant in front of the fire building on side Alpha.
Poole requested a full alarm dispatched at 4:41 A.M. Responding were Engines 1, 3 and 7, all 1,250-gpm pumpers, and Engine 9, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Ladder 1, a 110-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Ladder 4, a 110-foot tillered aerial; Rescue 1; South Battalion Chief Ken Kirsch and North Battalion Chief Joel Fielder.
Engine 1 was initially assigned to side Bravo. Firefighters advanced a 200-foot, 1¾-inch line to the access door on side Bravo. This door was heavily locked and forcible entry attempts using a halligan bar and a flat head axe were unsuccessful. Ladder 4 was assigned to side Bravo and assisted Engine 1's crew with forcible entry using a power saw to cut the hinges off of the door. Ladder 4 then raised its aerial to the roof of the fire building, where the crew performed trench-cutting operations.
Engine 1's crew advanced into the building and found heavy smoke and charring at the doorway. As the firefighters proceeded farther into the building, conditions improved. Returning to the entry area, firefighters found heavy fire at the basement stairs. Operating the attack line from this position had no effect on the fire in the basement and the crew left the area after running low on air. Firefighters returned to the Bravo side after exchanging air bottles.
Engine 3's crew, assigned to side Alpha, advanced a 200-foot, 1¾-inch pre-connect from Engine 4 through the front door of Dorian Photography on side Alpha and down an interior hallway. The crew could find no stairs leading to the basement or any fire. Heavy smoke was pushing up from the basement around the structural beams and through the floor. The crew backed out of the building and was sent in the loading dock area on side Bravo and found stairs leading to the basement. Engine 3's crew advanced a 1¾-inch line into the basement and found heavy fire. They retreated from the basement and repositioned with a 2½-inch line, making limited progress in extinguishing the fire in the basement. Engine 7 was assigned as the rapid intervention team. Engine 9 was positioned on side Delta and connected to the building's fire department connection at the Alpha/Delta corner with two 2½-inch lines from Engine 4.