No injuries in Government Hill blaze; 40 are displaced

casey.grove@adn.comJanuary 10, 2013 

A fire at a three-story apartment building in Anchorage's Government Hill neighborhood Thursday charred several units and left about 40 people without a home for the night.

No one was injured in the two-alarm fire at 905 Richardson Vista Road, according to Kevin Wallace, a fire captain at the scene. The fire burned as many as four apartments, possibly more, in the 22-unit building, Wallace said. A vertical strip on the building was blackened on the east side from the ground to its third floor and flames appeared to have spread crosswise through the roof. Firefighters were seen reuniting several dogs that had been trapped inside with their evacuated owners, who watched and waited across the road.

A neighbor at another building in the complex, North Pointe Apartments, called 911 at about 3:15 p.m., fire department spokesman Al Tamagni said. The first firefighters to arrive reported flames shooting through the building's roof, Tamagni said.

All of the building's residents had apparently escaped before firefighters arrived, Wallace said.

"When we made entry, we encountered no occupants. Of course, we conducted primary searches of the fire unit, under heavy fire conditions. We didn't find anybody," Wallace said. "As we came out, I do know there were some animals pulled out."

The flames were heaviest in the second- and third-floor apartments and the firefighters attacked the flames on the second floor first, Wallace said. It took 20 to 30 minutes to get the fire under control, he said.

Allen Wells lives in the building and said he had just returned from walking his roommate's dog, a golden retriever-poodle mix named Foxy, when he smelled smoke and heard alarms. His roommate and long-time friend, Robin Morris, was sleeping inside their second-floor apartment and couldn't hear the alarms, she said.

"I'm deaf, and I was sleeping and he had to come in and almost pick me up off the floor," Morris said. "I didn't know what was going on."

"It happened so fast," Wells said.

Another neighbor on the second floor told Wells the blaze started while he was cooking. Some grease caught fire and when the man sprayed it with a fire extinguisher, the flames spread, Wells said.

Tamagni, the fire department spokesman, was unavailable late in the day to comment on whether officials believed that's how the first started. He said in a written statement earlier that the fire's cause was under investigation and that the extent of damage to the building was unknown.

Just looking at the damage from the outside, it was clear to roommates Jeremy Hurt and Tyler Volk that their third-floor apartment had been destroyed. Luckily, the two senior airmen at nearby Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson have renters' insurance, they said.

Hurt and Volk said they had been living in the apartment for six or seven months. A property manager called to tell them about the fire, Volk said. A few minutes later, Hurt was looking at the black, smoking hole that was once his home, he said.

"We live in the one that's -- there is no more," Hurt said gesturing toward the building.

About 40 people would likely have to find somewhere else to sleep for the night, according to Katie Bender, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross of Alaska. Many were able to find shelter on their own, she said, and the organization was helping others find a place to stay. Heat and electricity were shut off to the building and smoke and water had affected more than just the burned apartments, Bender said.

 

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

 

 

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