Fueled by gas line break, fire ravages East Anchorage building

Casey Grove

Firefighters doused a fire at an East Anchorage apartment building that was fueled, in part, by natural gas rushing out of a broken line early Monday.

There were no injuries reported in the blaze that destroyed 8201 Duben Ave., fire department spokesman Al Tamagni said. The fire's cause remains under investigation, he said.

Fire crews rushed to the abandoned, multi-unit building just east of Muldoon Road and south of Centennial Park after a 911 call at 2:15 a.m., Tamagni said. The fire had "compromised" a natural gas line and the normal shutoff valves were inaccessible, he said.

"It looked like it was pretty big when they got there," Tamagni said. "When you have that natural gas feed, it's like having a blowtorch."

Two houses away, the commotion woke neighbors Kevin Boyce and his wife, Aimee. Firefighters atop ladders extending from fire trucks sprayed water on the flames, he said.

"It was like 30-foot flames," Boyce said. "They were about as high as the ladders."

Police officers surrounded the block, apparently getting ready to evacuate the area if needed, Boyce said.

There were no reports of anyone inside the building, and the firefighters focused on keeping the flames from spreading, Tamagni said. The fire raged on until a crew from Enstar, the local gas utility, dug up a buried gas line in order to shut off the flow sometime after 5 a.m., he said. It was sometime after the gas stopped flowing that firefighters gained control of the fire, Tamagni said.

A crew was still sifting through the ashes later Monday. Tamagni said the burned building, with part of its roof collapsed, appeared to be a total loss.

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