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Mercer Island: Icy roads, house fire keep emergency crews busy

An early evening fire damaged a home in the 4100 block of 100th Avenue SE on Mercer Island Thursday. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
An early evening fire damaged a home in the 4100 block of 100th Avenue SE on Mercer Island Thursday.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Record snowfall threw Mercer Island into to a white flurry on Dec. 18, canceling school for three days, closing roads, and keeping most Islanders at home for a long weekend. Mercer Island received 10 inches of snow on Thursday Dec. 18, the most in more than a decade. Drivers were warned about messy highways, with stranded vehicles slowing traffic on 1-90, I-5 and 405. The Town Center, blanketed in white, was quiet as most retail shops and restaurants closed for the day. The only noise came from parks and backyards as children shouted with glee, slipping and sliding in the snow; that and the sirens of fire trucks Thursday evening.

At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday Dec. 18, Mercer Island and Bellevue Fire Departments responded to a residential fire at 4102 100th Ave. S.E., just off East Mercer Way. The team's response to the fire was hampered by icy road conditions, which prevented fire fighters from getting their trucks close to the house. All equipment had to be carried 150 yards down a steep driveway. The team of 22 firefighters -- seven from Mercer Island and 15 from Bellevue -- extinguished the flames after 71 minutes.

According to reports, the fire originated under the rear deck of the two-story house and extended through the walls and into the attic. The owners were home and using a barbeque on the back deck when the fire started. After noticing smoke, they attempted to put out the fire using home fire extinguishers. A 911 call was placed by a neighbor on a cell phone.

With temperatures hovering around freezing, roads remain extremely icy and unsafe. Despite the fact that city road crews have been working around the clock with sanders and snow plows, officials are encouraging drivers to stay off the streets. The city prioritized snow plowing on the I-90 interchanges, in the Town Center, on Island Crest Way and West, North and East Mercer Ways.

Between Thursday and Sunday city maintenance put in 550 hours of overtime, driving more than 1,000 miles between four snow plows, which distributed more than 150 yards of sand and burned 600 gallons of diesel.

A number of barricades have been put up around the Island, preventing cars from entering dangerous streets. The city urges drivers to adhere to all signs and warnings.

Those who must drive are encouraged to stock their cars with basic safety equipment such as jumper cables, an ice scraper, tow chains, tire chains and a small shovel. Vehicles should also have road flares, blankets, gloves, warm clothing, flashlights with batteries and a first aid kit. Gas tanks should be kept full and ample time should be expected for reaching one's destination.

All Allied Waste operations were suspended on Thursday, according to the Mercer Island City Web site. All garbage not collected should be taken off the street as a double load will be collected (at no additional charge) on the next regularly scheduled service day.

The city also reminded citizens and businesses to keep stocked with emergency supplies, as the weather is predicted to get worse this weekend. Such amenities include: food, water, alternative shelter, a land-line telephone, transistor/battery-operated radio and other tools that can help them respond to an emergency.

The American Red Cross encourages residents to check on their neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled persons and seniors.

The city reminds residents to use alternate heat sources wisely. Space heaters, such as kerosene and propane, should be adequately vented to avoid fatal carbon monoxide gas buildup. Outdoor grills and camp stoves should not be used indoors as they may cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Lastly, owners of private property sidewalks are responsible, per city code, to clear snow and ice for the safety of others.

Emergency public information will be made available on the city’s Web site at www.mercergov.org. For school closure information, visit www.schoolreport.org. In inclement weather, Mercer Island Parks and Recreation classes and programs are cancelled when Mercer Island Schools are closed.

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