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Woman dies in apartment fire as 3 other residents escape

Lisa Demer

A 3-year-old girl, her father and grandfather escaped out of a second-floor window of their burning apartment Sunday morning, but a woman believed to be the child's grandmother was found dead inside the building, Anchorage police said.

The apartment is just off Lake Otis Parkway on Homestead Court, south of Tudor Road.

Police originally thought the woman who died was the child's mother but on Sunday evening clarified the relationships as well as the gender of the child.

One of the men in Apartment 5 called 911 around 8:40 a.m. saying the residence was on fire and that he was having to jump through a window, fire officials said.

By the time the first fire engine arrived, fire was blowing out the front door and windows, both upstairs and down. The men and child had gone out one of the windows. It wasn't clear if one jumped out with the girl in arms, or if one of the men handed the child out the window to the other already on the ground, said Chris Bushue, Anchorage Fire Department operations chief.

The men weren't sure if the woman had made it out. She hadn't -- crews found her deceased on the apartment's first floor, said fire investigator Brian Balega.

Fire crews didn't have a chance to save her, Bushue said.

"When they went inside, everything was on fire. Floors. Walls. Ceilings. Everything. They had to literally fight their way in," he said. A total of 11 fire engines, trucks, command vehicles and ambulances responded.

Lake Otis Parkway was shut down for a time because the flames were so big and the fire was so hot, Bushue said.

Two of the survivors were taken to the hospital for treatment, the Fire Department said. The Red Cross is helping the family. A dog also died in the fire.

Anchorage police didn't release the names of the woman or others in the burned apartment. That should happen today, Police Lt. Dave Parker said.

Fire investigator Balega said he didn't yet know what had caused the fire. The apartment was secured as a crime scene and as of midday he was awaiting a search warrant to go inside.

Police are working with Balega to investigate the fire. That's typical in the case of a fatal fire without an immediate, obvious cause, Parker said.

Other residents of the multi-unit apartment building escaped without injuries, Parker said. They will likely be able to return to their homes today, fire officials said.

The neighboring apartment suffered minor damage. A firewall between the apartments kept the fire from spreading and causing more destruction, according to the Fire Department.


By LISA DEMER
Anchorage Daily News