Fireworks blamed for Tonasket house fire

TONASKET - The Tonasket Police Department is investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed a home at 204 Third...

Tonasket Fire Chief Andy Gasho and a crew of nine responded to this Fourth of July fire call, arriving on scene within two minutes and preventing this roof fire from spreading throughout the neighborhood. Tonasket Police and Tonasket EMS were also on hand. Homeowners Ted and Doddie Hart got out safely, thanks to neighbors alerting them. “This could have been a different day; it could have been a different story,” reflected Angie Hart on her parents’ safety and well-being. Katie Teachout/staff photos
Tonasket Fire Chief Andy Gasho and a crew of nine responded to this Fourth of July fire call, arriving on scene within two minutes and preventing this roof fire from spreading throughout the neighborhood. Tonasket Police and Tonasket EMS were also on hand. Homeowners Ted and Doddie Hart got out safely, thanks to neighbors alerting them. “This could have been a different day; it could have been a different story,” reflected Angie Hart on her parents’ safety and well-being.
Katie Teachout/staff photos

“I’m very grateful my husband and I made it out of the fire. Darn fireworks. I wish they didn’t have them anymore,” Doddie Hart, Homeowner who lost her home to fire on July 4th

 

TONASKET – The Tonasket Police Department is investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed a home at 204 Third Street on the Fourth of July.

“We don’t know who set off the fireworks that caused the fire,” said Angie Hart. “People in the house behind us and people in the apartment complex were setting them off. People just don’t care, I guess.”

Hart, who grew up in the home that her parents bought when they were first married 42 years ago, said her parents, Ted and Doddie Hart, weren’t setting off fireworks and they weren’t watching fireworks. They were in the house watching TV when a neighbor came and knocked on the door and told them their house was on fire.

“My parents got out safe and are staying with me in Oroville. That’s the important thing. It could have been a different day; it could have been a different story,” Hart said. “We can keep our memories; the house is gone but we are alive and safe and that’s what matters.”

The burned roof of the house, with smoke from the Newby Lake fire darkening the sky behind them.
The burned roof of the house, with smoke from the Newby Lake fire darkening the sky in the background.

“I’m very grateful my husband and I made it out of the fire,” said Doddie Hart. “Darn fireworks. I wish they didn’t have them anymore.”

Doddie Hart said the fire came as a shock. “We don’t know who set it off. We had our curtains pulled, and I was just about ready to go to bed. A couple of neighbors were shooting the fireworks off.”

Tonasket Fire Chief Andy Gasho said the call went out at 10:23 p.m. and firefighters were on the scene at 10:25 p.m. Five fire trucks were there, and the fire was kept confined to the roof and eaves of the home.

“It started to get our garage, but they knocked it out,” Angie Hart said as she pointed out metal roofing on the neighbor’s house that buckled from the heat.

Firemen remained on scene until 12:02 a.m. July 5.

Angie Hart said she was working at the Asian Bistro at Twelve Tribes Casino when she got the call from her mom. “I had someone get ahold of my boss and tell her I had to leave. Eight members (of the fire department) were sitting down at the hall. They got here really fast, and I commend their quickness and their teamwork. They did an awesome job.”

“We have a fantastic fire department. They were here quick,” said Doddie Hart.

Gasho said the fire department has a BBQ down at the fire hall every July 4. “There were nine or ten firemen there, as there is always at least one fire in town on the fourth,” said Gasho.

Neighbor Mike Ward said he was driving south into town from Highway 97 around 10:30 p.m. when he noticed the fire.

“Even with this house burning, there were still a lot of fireworks going off,” said Ward. “I didn’t think anyone in Eastern Washington would still be thinking of doing this. Ordinance in place or not, we should be able to police ourselves and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Both Angie and Doddie Hart said the home is not livable at all; between the fire, smoke and water damage.

“It’s pretty bad on the inside,” said Doddie Hart. “Farmers Insurance has been wonderful to work with. All the neighbors and the whole town has been supportive; all their prayers and wanting to do stuff for us. Tonasket is a great community to live in.”

In a special meeting of the Tonasket City Council held Tuesday, June 30, council members made a motion to adopt the burn ban currently in place by Fire District 4, the agency contracted to provide services to the city of Tonasket. Council members also discussed drafting an ordinance outlawing fireworks, but it would need to be put in place 365 days ahead of time.

Mayor Patrick Plumb issued the following proclamation June 30:

“At this time the city of Tonasket strongly urges all cititzens to not light or utilize any fireworks in the city limits due to fire danger and the burn ban as adopted by Tonasket City Council on June 30, 2015. This request will take place immediately and be over when the burn ban is lifted by the Tonasket Fire Chief.”

Fireworks regulation in Washington state is largely governed by the state fireworks law and the administrative regulations adopted by the Washington State Patrol. Counties and cities can be more restrictive than state restrictions, and can even ban all sale and discharge of fireworks, but they cannot be more liberal. The state supreme court decision in Brown v. Yakima held that the state fireworks law does not prevent a local government from enacting an ordinance more restrictive than state law; however, any local rules that are more restrictive may be effective no sooner than one year from their adoption, according to RCW 70.77.250.

Yakima County and the City of Spokane Valley both have prohibited the use, sale and discharge of fireworks, other than public displays which require applying for a permit 10 days ahead of time. On the Westside, Bellevue, Kirkland and Shoreline have prohibited fireworks, with Shoreline requiring a 30-day wait on permits for public displays.

Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark banned all outdoor fires, including campfires and fireworks, on Washington State DNR protected lands. Likewise, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has banned all campfires at state parks.

“The fire danger is now unlike any we’ve seen here in a long time, if ever,” said Governor Jay Inslee June 26. “We need to be prepared for the possibility of an unprecedented fire season.”

“I have no idea how to convey to people how high the fire danger is in town this year, yet people are setting off fireworks all over the place,” stated Plumb at 10:13 p.m. on July 4. “It’s not that I didn’t try letting people know. Anyone setting off fireworks with a burn ban and with the fire danger being what it is, takes the liability into their own hands tonight.”

 

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