A large plume of smoke rose from Midtown Anchorage on Thursday as firefighters battled a blaze that began early in the morning at the former Sea Galley restaurant off C Street.
The restaurant on Credit Union Drive north of Tudor Road had been shuttered since October and was slated for demolition this week, fire officials at the scene said.
The smoke plume had begun to pale and dissipate by 11:30 a.m., but officials said they expected the blaze to continue for hours. The building’s roof has collapsed, but the extent of the damage inside is still unclear.
“We have it contained, but it’s not under control,” assistant fire chief Alex Boyd said at the scene. What that means, he said, is that the firefighters have prevented the flames from damaging surrounding buildings, but inside the fire is still burning.
By about 3:30 p.m., the fire was “mostly under control” but still not out, Boyd said. There were still some “hot spots” — fire burning in hidden spaces or behind debris. Crews were likely to remain on the scene for several hours more.
Firefighters have been able to get inside to continue fighting the flames but haven’t yet been able to determine what caused the fire, Boyd said. About 20 firefighting units have responded to the fire, which was called in at about 6:17 a.m.
Meanwhile, smoke and some ash have descended upon Midtown Anchorage.
“Smoke is expected to linger in the area for some time due to the temperatures and lack of wind,” the Anchorage Fire Department said in a statement at 11:35 a.m. “Those with respiratory conditions near Midtown are advised to use caution when spending time outside if there appears to be smoke in your area.”
Fred Schroeder, one of the Sea Galley owners, said he didn’t know what happened regarding the fire.
“If you have a business that you’ve been in for many, many years and it’s kind of like a child, and you lose a child, you don’t want to talk about it,” he said when asked about his reaction to the blaze.
Asked why the business closed last year, Schroeder said “we have other plans” for that property, but wouldn’t go into specifics. The restaurant was in business for 36 years before its October closure.
The fire department asked drivers to avoid the area so as not to hinder firefighting equipment. One lane is open on the portion of C Street nearest the fire, and part of Credit Union Drive is closed. As of 4:20 p.m., lane closures around the structure were still in effect and were "expected to last another four hours,” Anchorage police said.
All utilities had been turned off in the building and the fire suppression system wasn’t operational. No one was known to be inside at the time of the fire.
Boyd said the Sea Galley fire is the department’s “biggest” of 2019 so far.