On The Job: WASHINGTON

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...


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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Foam Operations

Foam operations were started after the fire was determined to be defensive utilizing Engine 4. One 2½-inch line from a portable foam generator with a 5-hp motor and sock assembly was operated through openings in the first floor and a basement window on side Bravo. The effort was an attempt to fill the basement with 20-to-1 expansion Class A foam to smother the seat of the fire that was unreachable by hose streams. Approximately 25 five-gallon buckets of foam were used in the operation with very good results in partially filling the basement and smothering the majority of remaining fire.

Post Street Command declared the fire out and on "fire watch" at 5:50 P.M. Firefighters contained the fire to the part of the structure occupied by Dorian Photography. Churchill's Restaurant suffered heavy smoke and water damage and the condominiums suffered smoke damage. Two firefighters were injured, one requiring hospitalization. Off-duty Spokane firefighters staffing reserve apparatus were released beginning at 6 P.M. A continual fire watch was in place for four days. The last Spokane unit left the scene at 7:24 A.M. on Monday, July 28.

An investigation into the cause and origin of the fire was conducted by Spokane Fire Department; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and private insurance investigators. Due to structural collapse, it was several days before the scene was stabilized to allow for entry into the building. The investigation concluded on Nov. 17. Investigators were unable to agree on a cause of the fire. Damage was estimated at nearly $5 million.

Lessons Learned