Officials investigate Emmonak blaze, faulty fire gear

ANCHORAGE — Kwik’Pak Fisheries plans to rebuild facilities that burned at its fish-processing plant in the western Alaska village of Emmonak, company officials said.

The fire began Saturday night in a combination office building and warehouse. When firefighting equipment failed, fire spread to two Kwik’Pak dormitories and two buildings operated by Yukon Marine Manufacturing, a boat-builder. Alaska State Troopers estimated damage at $3 million or more, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Trooper William Connors, Emmonak village public safety officer Jay Levan and the company’s caretaker employees were the only ones to respond to the fire, Kwik’Pak manager Jack Schultheis said Tuesday. Staff at the Emmonak city offices said no local officials were available to comment on the response.

The fire could have been contained if firefighting gear had been working, Schultheis said. Connors said Sunday water pumps were not working and ice augers that could have helped draw water from the Yukon River were not available

“We have three fire hydrants on the property; all of those hydrants were froze up,” Schultheis said. “It’s just sad, it’s the circumstances of western Alaska — that’s how it is.”

State fire marshal Dave Tyler said staff from his office will try to determine the cause of the fire and review the condition of the firefighting equipment. His office does not have authority to order improvements.

In situations where a fire department’s gear has not received proper upkeep, Tyler said, “the community’s not as involved in it as they need to be.”

Kwik’Pak flash-freezes 4 million to 5 million pounds of salmon and whitefish annually in Emmonak. The main fish processing facilities were not damaged, Schultheis said. Production should not be affected this year if dormitories to handle about 500 summer workers are rebuilt.

“Those communities depend on that fishery; it’s all they have for income,” Schultheis said. “It’s our job — it’s my job — to make sure we’re operational by the first of June.”

The company hopes to begin construction when insurers sign off on a plan and land is cleared.

More in News

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore docks in Juneau in October, 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for t​​he Week of Oct. 1

Here’s what to expect this week.

Michael Beasley drops a ballot into a drop box at the City Hall Assembly Chambers on Election Day Tuesday morning. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Preliminary election results: Tight Assembly races, narrow City Hall rejection

Results released early Wednesday, more votes to be counted in next two weeks.

Students in the Juneau School District fared better on standardized science tests during the past year than their peers statewide, but the local proficiency score of about 43% was nearly 6% lower than the local scores last year, according to results released last Friday. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Statewide test scores show Alaska’s students still struggling

About 37% proficient in science statewide; Juneau at 43%, down from 48.6% a year ago.

A closed sign sits on Delta’s ticket counter after hours inside Juneau International Airport in August of 2022. The airline announced this week it is suspending service between Juneau and Seattle from Nov. 4 to June 6, 2024. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Delta Air Lines canceling Juneau-Seattle flights from Nov. 4 until early next June

Airline cites “commercial and operational constraints,” analyst says higher local airfares likely.

Residents sit in voter booths at the voter center located at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library on Tuesday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Election Day kicks off in Juneau

Preliminary results of municipal election expected to be announced late Tuesday night.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Monday, Oct. 2, 2023

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the House floor after being ousted as Speaker of the House at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
McCarthy becomes the first speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a House vote

WASHINGTON — Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job Tuesday… Continue reading

An exercise station at Anchorage’s Westchester Lagoon is seen on Monday. The “Fitness Cluster” offers opportunities for strength and cardiovacular training, and signage gives fitness information and advice. Two-thirds of Alaska adults are overweight or obese, and about a fifth of them engage in no physical activity, according to an annual report released by the state Department of Health. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Report: Alaskans dogged by chronic diseases

Many residents lack healthy lifestyles or regular screenings.

Most Read