Mountain View apartments burn; dozens displaced

Anchorage Daily News / adn.comSeptember 19, 2013 

A fire ripped through an apartment complex in Anchorage's Mountain View neighborhood on Thursday afternoon, leaving all 38 units uninhabitable and dozens of residents displaced.

The fire was at Glynwood Manor, two-story complex at 221 Meyer Street on the western edge of Mountain View. A building manager estimated the number of residents at 100 or fewer.

No injuries were reported, according to Anchorage Fire Department spokesman Al Tamagni Jr.

Investigator Brian Balega said the fire appeared to have started in an upstairs unit at the north end of the building, which occupies nearly a third of the block. He said the cause had not been determined, though there were unconfirmed reports it had started in the kitchen.

At least half the W-shaped complex appeared to have been directly damaged by the fire, with significant water and smoke damage to the rest. At the southeast corner on the top floor, sections of roof and walls were completely gone, with charred timbers exposed.

It wasn't immediately clear how many residents had been displaced. As of 6:30 p.m., firefighters were still working at the building, and had not let any residents back in, Tamagni said.

"They couldn't even get me a damage estimate," Tamagni said. "It's unlivable."

The American Red Cross of Alaska planned to open a shelter for residents at the Fairview Community Recreation Center, according to disaster services manager Melissa Himes. A tour bus had been dispatched to the fire scene to warm up residents, then drive them to Fairview.

The fire was first reported around 1:20 p.m. Thursday, according to Tamagni. Flames initially shot as much as 30 feet off the top of the two-story apartment complex.

A resident, Terry Noa, 22, said she smelled smoke, then left her apartment and saw a flames coming from the apartment two doors down. The woman who lived there, Noa said, had run out to warn others.

"She's just coming out saying, 'Fire!' and running, running," Noa said. "In 10 seconds, the fire was already burning almost half the upstairs."

Fanned by gusty winds, the fire quickly spread through the roof, and also through doors left open by fleeing residents, according to Capt. Mark Stephens, who said he was the first firefighter to arrive.

"It wasn't just the roof that was on fire -- each unit was fully involved in fire," Stephens said. "It just went from one side of the building faster than I've ever seen it before."

Residents described running from door to door to warn neighbors and relatives of the blaze, which spread so quickly that few managed to save their belongings.

"I have couches, bed, clothes, all my papers, my kids' stuff -- everything," said Iuni Sio, 47. "Everything is all in there. I came out barefoot."

By 2:15 p.m., the fire had been knocked down, but firefighters still focused on flames resurfacing in spots. Twelve units were initially dispatched, but more were eventually were called in, including some of the department's probationary officers set to graduate from the fire academy Friday, according to Tamagni.

Tamagni said firefighters found three cats alive in the building, and also removed medications for some residents.

Balega, the investigator, said he had talked to the occupant of the apartment where the fire originated, but gave no further details.

The building did not have a sprinkler system, according to Tamagni. A municipal property database listed the date of construction as 1963.

A crowd of several dozen people -- many young families, some older residents -- stood outside the police tape as firefighters put out the flames, then mopped up. Some were clearly distraught, while others said they were thankful the fire had occurred during the day, when children were at school. Some snapped photos.

Anna Isaia, 48, said she had watched as the fire consumed the apartment she'd moved into just a month earlier with her husband and four children.

"I don't know what I felt like -- I just looked at it and started crying," she said.

She said her family planned to stay in the Red Cross shelter, since they have no other relatives in Anchorage.

Himes, the organization's disaster services manager, said that the building had housed some refugee families.

The Red Cross plans to offer food, clothing, and replacement medications to residents who need them, said Communications Officer Laura Spano. It will also help people find replacement homes, she said.


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