File photo of Juneau Capital City Fire/Rescue firefighters at work. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

File photo of Juneau Capital City Fire/Rescue firefighters at work. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Fireworks spark New Year’s blaze

Neighbor describes ‘wall of flame’

At around 2 a.m. New Year’s Day, Douglas resident Luann McVey awoke to a frightening sight.

“I was awakened by orange light in our bedroom,” McVey said, “and looked out our window and saw a wall of flame on the side of the street.”

The flames were coming from a flatbed trailer, where the remnants of fireworks boxes were stacked. Just a couple hours earlier, Douglas resident Brett McCurley had put on his biennial fireworks show on Sandy Beach — done on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve.

The cardboard boxes left over from the show were all piled on the trailer, McCurley said, and he and his friends were checking on it every 20 minutes or so to make sure nothing reignited. Whatever happened to start the blaze happened quickly, he said.

“It was just a shock to all of us,” McCurley said. “We try to make it to where everything that we do is safe. This time, we think that what happened was there was a little ember down there and there was a little breeze and it blew in there and started that little ember.”

[Fire department honors employees of the year]

McVey immediately called 911, and her husband and McCurley ran outside and started spraying the trailer with garden hoses. McCurley said he even jumped into the truck and drove the flaming trailer closer to his house so his hose could reach the trailer.

Capital City Fire/Rescue Assistant Chief Chad Cameron said that when responders arrived, the two men were still outside with the garden hoses. Cameron said they initially refused to move away, but eventually let the firefighters step in. McCurley said he felt they had the fire mostly knocked down when responders arrived, and said one of the firefighters pushed him roughly out of the way when they got there.

It took a little while for the responders to extinguish the blaze, McVey said, but it was eventually put out.

There were no injuries reported, Cameron said. He didn’t respond to the call, and the captain on duty who did respond to the scene was off work Wednesday, Cameron said.

McVey said it took a little while to clean everything up, but she felt extremely fortunate that there weren’t any injuries and that her house remained safe.

“We were lucky,” McVey said. “It was so close to us.”

[Opinion: Personal use of fireworks should be open to a public vote]

McCurley has been doing the fireworks show out of his own pocket for the past four years, offering Douglas residents a show of their own. He said the older people who live in downtown Douglas — who don’t have the mobility to go view the downtown fireworks on the Fourth of July — have greatly appreciated the show.

McCurley apologized profusely to McVey and her husband Wednesday, and said he felt bad for the neighbors who were disturbed by the blaze. He said he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to continue doing the shows after this.

“I never meant for anything to happen like that,” McCurley said. “If we ever do the fireworks show ever again, we’ll request that the fire department come down and spray each board down with foam.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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