A pair of residential fires that badly damaged homes and occurred within days of each other serve as a reminder for residents to check their smoke detectors, said Fire Marshal Dan Jager.
While there were no major injuries reported in either a Saturday fire on Pederson Street or a Monday morning blaze on Radcliffe Road, Jager said as Alaska enters the colder months — when indoor fires and use of heaters becomes more common — it’s especially important for people to be mindful of fire risk.
“I think statewide we’re looking at close to 20 fire fatalities, so we’re getting into the cold months of the year where for Alaska traditionally we’ll see more fire deaths, unfortunately,” Jager said. “Anytime we can get the message out about smoke alarms, it’s always a help just to keep reiterating that early detection aspect.”
At approximately 5:30 a.m. Monday morning, Capital City Fire/Rescue responded to a house fire in the 2200 block of Radcliffe Road. Jager said that all occupants were able to safely evacuate the home after being alerted by a basement smoke detector. A husband and wife along with their three children were renting the space as a short-term rental, according to Jager, who said the fire was electrical in nature and occurred as a result of some kind of failure at the main panel box.
“From there it traveled vertically to the gable end of the roof and gained access into the attic space and it spread throughout the attic,” Jager said. “The smoke alarm was going off in the basement area, so the husband went down to try and find out what that noise was, realized it was a smoke alarm and there was no obvious signs of fire to him, so he went back upstairs to see what might be going on up there, and around that time, a passerby from the neighborhood that was walking their dog started banging on the door to inform them that the house was on fire. From there, the family gathered up the stuff that they could, jackets for the kids and things of that nature, and got outside safely.”
Jager said that while the extent of the damage has yet to be determined, the home suffered a significant amount of water damage while the fire was being extinguished. Jager added that he believes the residence is insured but has not yet been able to make contact with the owner to confirm that detail. The occupants, however, did have renter’s insurance, so all of their personal items are expected to be covered, Jager said.
“We’re just really glad to hear that the smoke alarm went off and that someone out in the neighborhood saw it and alerted them even further,” Jager said. “The fire was on the outside of the house, so who knows how long it would have been before they would have known to go outside and look, otherwise it could have just been a faulty detector or something, but to actually see it on the outside and working its way in, it’s just good to have neighbors as well as working smoke alarms.”
On Saturday shortly before 5:30 p.m. CCFR responded to the 2500 block of Pederson Street for a residential structure fire. Fire personnel found a three-story residence sustaining heavy fire upon arrival. According to Jager, initial fire suppression tactics were adjusted after crews determined the structure integrity was possibly compromised, causing a safety concern.
After nearly five hours, the fire was extinguished. Origin and cause investigation began while suppression efforts were being made.
All occupants were safely evacuated, however, one resident suffered a laceration to their hand and was treated on site. It was also reported that two firefighters suffered minor injuries and were released on site as well. Assistant Chief Travis Mead was the commanding officer during the fire and said that everyone was able to walk away after being evaluated.
“They were assessed on scene and given some minor first aid for the wound, but there wasn’t need for any further care beyond that,” Mead said.
The structure was divided into two separate rental units, according to Mead. He said the building construction made extinguishing the fire extremely difficult as there were multiple void spaces and unique architecture.
The structure is a total loss as it sustained fire, smoke and water damage throughout, according to Mead, however tenants were able to salvage antiques and heirlooms. The investigation has determined that the fire started on the second floor where heavy damage occurred. The actual cause is still undetermined and the investigation is ongoing.
“It’s just a good reminder that as we’re getting into winter season people are definitely using more heating appliances and using wood stoves, so it’s just a good reminder to check that their batteries in smoke detectors are changed out and make sure that if you’re going to use a heating device to keep the area clear around it,” said Mead.