This article has been updated. Read the latest on the fire here.
No one was hurt in a downtown structure fire that witnesses say produced some sort of explosion.
Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, flames were visible through the doorway to a storage area underneath The Gym, a gym on Glacier Avenue neighboring J&J Deli-Mart and across the street from Harborview Elementary.
Before Capital City Fire/Rescue arrived on the scene, the flames were kept at bay by Alaska Electric Light & Power workers who were passing the area in their work truck that was equipped with fire extinguishers.
“I just happened to be driving by, and we heard and felt a big pop and jumped out,” said AELP lineman Evan Bixby. “We put (the fire) out a couple of times, but it kept coming back. It blew the door off. There was some big combustion happening in there.”
Shortly after firefighters knocked down the fire for good, CCFR Assistant Fire Chief Tod Chambers said the cause of the fire was unknown, and the fire marshal would be investigating the cause.
“I can’t say definitively what that (explosion) was,” Chambers said.
Juneau Police Department is investigating the cause of the fire, and Sgt. Sterling Salisbury said there is reason to suspect it may have begun under suspicious circumstances.
Salisbury would not say what led investigators to that conclusion.
“Not at this point,” he said.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, it did not appear to damage any of the surrounding buildings, Chambers said and the businesses near The Gym seemed mostly undamaged.
“My captain did a search through them and didn’t see anything, only smoke,” Chambers said.
However, power was cut to the building after the fire, so businesses did close in the aftermath.
Steve Lewis, co-owner of the building that houses J&J and The Gym and more, arrived to the scene around 10 a.m. and said the storage space, which was the apparent scene of the fire, was used to house salt and ice melt.
Firefighters removed a charred ice melt spreader and bicycle from the space.
“It’s just weird,” Lewis said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.