Spenard apartment fire leaves some residents homeless

Anchorage Daily NewsJanuary 13, 2014 

Anchorage firefighters put out flames in a Spenard apartment building Monday that left some residents without a home, at least for the night.

Someone driving by the Anchorage Sands apartments at 1627 W. 32nd Ave. called 911 after seeing fire and smoke just after 4:20 p.m. Monday, fire department spokesman Al Tamagni said. The blaze broke out in the top floor of one of several three-story buildings that make up a larger complex, he said.

Orange flames could still be seen shooting out more than an hour later. The firefighters had it under control a little after 6 p.m., Deputy Chief Jim Vignola said.

"They've just been blasting water in," Tamagni said.

There had been no injuries to residents or firefighters reported, Tamagni said.

In one section, furniture had fallen through where the floor burned and collapsed, Tamagni said.

When fire Capt. Robert St. Clair pulled up to the fire with his crew, two residents stood on the roof, children screamed below and flames licked the three-story building's roof.

One woman jumped, he said. Firefighters quickly grabbed a ladder and assisted the man to the ground below, he said.

"Everything was happening pretty fast," St. Clair said.

He said the woman was OK.

The third floor collapsed.

"And, well, we all went to work," St. Clair said.

He headed in through the stairwell. There was heavy heat and black smoke from ceiling to floor, he said.

Flames pushed the firefighters out of the building twice before they were able to fight it from the inside.

Crews battled the flames for nearly two hours until it was declared under control.

By 8 p.m. fire trucks remained parked at the scene, crews peeled off apartment siding and firefighters lifted cases of water bottles into the apartment's courtyard for the crews. It was about 18 degrees.

St. Clair, covered in black soot, described the fire as unpredictable and stubborn. It burned in the apartment walls.

"We have so much to investigate today and tomorrow," he said.

Earlier, as crews battled the fire, about a dozen residents stood outside watching, including Carlos Lousenburg, 51, who had been sitting down to dinner with his two daughters when a police officer came to his door and said they had to evacuate.

"We heard people screaming and looked outside. There was a fire coming out with lots of smoke," Lousenburg said.

Vignola said the building that burned contained 16 units, eight of which were involved in the fire.

The Red Cross was taking care of evacuated residents at the nearby Aquarian Charter School, 1705 W. 32nd Ave., and shuttling them to the Spenard Recreation Center, spokeswoman Laura Spano said. There were about 20 people at the school, though it was unclear how many would be taken to the rec center to spend the night, Spano said.

"We do have quite a few people in the gym right now that are waiting to be transported," Spano said when reached by phone at the school.

The fire closed southbound lanes on Minnesota Drive between Northern Lights Boulevard and Tudor Road during the evening rush hour, snarling traffic in the area. .


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