Fire investigator sifts through ashes at burned Midtown building

casey.grove@adn.comJanuary 4, 2013 

Update, 12 a.m.:

According to the Anchorage Fire Department, a woman was charged late Friday in the fire Thursday morning that destroyed a Midtown apartment building.

In an email sent to news media late Friday, the Anchorage Fire Department says Jenae Collins, 41, has been charged with arson and reckless endangerment in the fire that left as many as 45 people homeless.

Collins is set to be arraigned over the weekend.

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A fire investigator on Friday pored over the scene of a two-alarm blaze that consumed a Eureka Street apartment building Thursday morning. The charred three-story building remains cordoned off and tenants remain unable to enter or try to recover their belongings.

Meanwhile, the last of the 10 or so displaced residents who stayed at a Red Cross shelter set up at the Spenard Recreation Center were expected to leave late Friday. As many as 45 people had to find new, if temporary, homes after the building burned, fire officials said.

A fire investigator was busy all day Friday sifting through the ashes at 3405 Eureka St., Anchorage Fire Department spokesman Al Tamagni said. The fire's cause had not been determined by late Friday but the investigation is "moving along," Tamagni said. The investigator did not report any immediate or obvious signs of foul play or negligence, Tamagni said.

"Due to the size of the building and damage that was caused, these types of investigations typically take time," he said.

Tamagni credited working smoke alarms and the building's tenants with making sure everyone got out as the fire spread. Tamagni said medical privacy laws prevented him from disclosing information about the status of two people taken by ambulance to a hospital but he said the patients were still alive.

The building will remain closed until the investigation is complete, Tamagni said. It's unclear how many of the 24 apartments burned, he said.

"One way or the other, they're all affected," Tamagni said. "I'm not sure how far the water damage went. They were pouring a lot of water on there."

According to municipal tax records, the building has an assessed value of $1.4 million.

Mike Grisham, a partner in Eureka LLC, which owns the building, said it's too early to put a dollar figure on the amount of damage. Insurance adjustors have not been allowed in yet, Grisham said.

"It's my understanding the fire department needs exclusive access," Grisham said. "They can't have people coming in and poking around."

According to Dawn Brantley, program manager of the city's Office of Emergency Management, many of the displaced residents have found places to stay with friends or family. Some of them have already secured permanent housing with help from Eureka, Brantley said.

"The Red Cross got an outpouring of donations for these families," Brantley said. "And Walmart not only provided food for the first responders and the residents affected, they also donated care packages and storage equipment for storage at the shelter, without ever being asked."

Four cats found alive in an apartment were reunited with their owner Friday, Brantley said. The felines had spent the night at Anchorage Animal Care and Control, she said.

 

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

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