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Wash. firefighters caught in roof collapse at bank fire

Eight Spokane firefighters were inside when the roof of the US Bank building collapsed

By James Hanlon
The Spokesman-Review

SPOKANE, Wash. — Smoke and flames erupted through the roof of a US Bank branch on the South Hill just before noon Monday as ladder crews fought to contain it.

All employees and customers were safe and accounted for, said Jake Holtrop, a US Bank spokesman.

The building is in the Lincoln Heights shopping center along 29th Avenue. The street was closed while first responders fought the blaze.

As the wind picked up early Monday afternoon, smoke billowed to the north, prompting businesses across the parking lot to close.

The fire appeared to start in the attic area of the building, said Spokane Fire Department spokesman Justin de Ruyter.

Employees noticed the smell of smoke and evacuated before fire crews arrived.

Because the fire was in the top section of the building, crews first cut a hole in the roof to vent the smoke, then entered the building to fight the fire from below, de Ruyter said. As they pulled the ceiling down, the roof collapsed and momentarily trapped a firefighter who was rescued by two others. All eight firefighters inside the building were able to escape without injury.

“They are walking around; they are OK,” de Ruyter said.

At that point, crews shifted to what de Ruyter called a “defensive position” of soaking the roof from above with water cannons.

The building will most likely be a total loss, de Ruyter said. Crews were to remain on scene throughout the night to ensure hotspots are extinguished while fire investigators assess the aftermath.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Holtrop said customers will continue to have full-service access from the bank’s other locations in Spokane, including the Manito branch, which is less than 2 miles away at 621 E. 30th Ave.

A combined KFC and A&W restaurant next door was evacuated during the fire, but the building was undamaged. The drive-thru was closed Monday evening.

A brief downpour of rain and hail Monday made no difference in the firefighting, de Ruyter said.

The bank building has a daylight basement on the north side where a Spokane COPS office used to be located. The office moved across the parking lot above Two Seven Public House about a year and a half ago, COPS volunteer Ray Young said.

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