Capital City Fire/Rescue firefighters arrived to a house fire in West Juneau on Thursday afternoon to find flames visible on second story and heavy smoke billowing out from the roof.
CCFR Captain Noah Jenkins was among the first ones to enter the residence, and instead of focusing solely on taking out the fire, turned his thoughts to Della, the homeowner’s brindle pitbull.
“We’d heard on the radio that it sounded like everybody was out of the structure, but that there might potentially be a dog in there,” Jenkins said in an interview.
After his search of the upstairs came up empty, he said he headed downstairs and found the pet cowering in the hallway. The dog didn’t have a collar, so Jenkins picked up the pet and brought it out to the sidewalk, where he tried restraining it.
“It was wiggling away and I kind of laid on top of it to secure it,” Jenkins said. “He ended up biting my mask, and at that point I thought, ‘I’ll let him go.’”
Before long, the dog turned up nearly two miles away — and across a bridge — at the Imperial Bar on Front Street. CCFR Assistant Chief Travis Mead initially dismissed a report of someone seeing the dog run across the Douglas Bridge, but reconsidered his judgment after being told of the dog’s whereabouts.
“I kind of thought that was somebody just being funny or joking about it, and then it wasn’t until recently that I actually heard the dog showed up at the Imperial Bar,” said Mead, who was informed the dog had previously spent time at the bar.
While the dog was spared, much of the second floor wasn’t: CCFR estimated the fire resulted in $70,000-$75,000 worth of damage. The house was insured, said CCFR Fire Marshal Dan Jager.
“Most of a full floor of the house was on fire,” CCFR Chief Rich Etheridge said on scene shortly before 12:30 p.m.
The fire originated on the back deck where a plastic tote of ashes was kept, according to Jager. The fire marshal said heat caused the ashes to smolder, which eventually lit the tote and the exterior of the home on fire.
A member of the public called 911 after seeing flames from the road, said Etheridge.
No one was home at the time, except the dog, and the homeowners were not immediately available to comment.
“I’ve got dogs at home, I know how much they mean and how much of a tragedy it would be (to lose them),” Jenkins said. “Already they’re having a terrible day having their house catch on fire. To lose a pet would just be that much worst.”
• Contact reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.