An early morning fire at a hotel under construction in Midtown Anchorage destroyed the building and created a smoke plume that could be seen all over the city. It was a described as a “massive loss” by a fire official.
Firefighters responded just after 5 a.m. to the partly built hotel at 4960 A St., between Tudor Road and International Airport Road. The site was going to be a 141-room Courtyard by Marriott, according to property records.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known. By 4:30 p.m., it was still burning, preventing investigators from getting inside to begin determining the cause, fire investigator Brian Dean said.
Unable to enter the structure, firefighters doused it with water, forcing the fire to burn itself out with no dry material left to consume, Dean said. The investigation will continue Sunday.
At the stage of construction the building was in, it was made almost entirely of wood, and the sprinkler system had not yet been completely installed, said Fire Marshal Cleo Hill with the Anchorage Fire Department. The structure was quickly engulfed. By daylight, only the eastern half of the four-story building was still standing. Hill called the building “a massive loss.”
At one point, 26 units were helping to battle the fire, Hill said. By 8 a.m., firefighters had used enough water to create a small lake in the lot adjacent to the construction site. Flames and smoke were visible all over the city.
The fire was hot enough to do damage to the front side of the neighboring Motel 6, Hill said. Guests at the motel were evacuated.
“The radiant heat was so intense that it cracked the windows on the Motel 6 directly to the south and also melted the Motel 6 sign,” Hill said.
One firefighter was taken to a local hospital for heat exhaustion and later released, Anchorage Fire Department spokesman Brian Keen said. Battalion Chief Mike Davidson described the man’s injuries as “not serious.”
Embers rained down so heavily on the area that guests at neighboring hotels were woken up early in the morning by hotel staff, who asked them to move their cars away from the burning building. Some guests stayed outside, watching firefighters spray water onto the flames and taking pictures on their cell phones.
For Sheri Losby, who was staying at the Home2 Suites nearby, the call came around 6 a.m.
“It wasn’t my way to wake up,” Losby said.
Dustin Every, who was staying at the nearby Homewood Suites, said he left the hotel and sat in his car “just in case.”
Jesse Legner, a guest at the same hotel, said he stays at the Homewood Suites every year when he comes to Anchorage on business. Last year, a water main break flooded the building, he said — between that and the fire, he’s considering finding different accommodations.
Adam Bair, a construction worker who had helped install the building’s heating and air condition systems, stood nearby as firefighters doused the flames. Were it not for the fire, he would have been working Saturday morning, he said.
Bair said the unfinished building had been broken into at least a couple of times by burglars who stole construction tools. Construction site burglaries are fairly common, Bair said, and the partly constructed hotel was surrounded by a fence and two security cameras.
As far as fire officials are aware, no one was inside the building while the fire burned.
C Street and local streets in the area were closed for several hours, although all lanes of C Street were open again by 8:45 a.m.
It was the second major fire in a commercial building in the area in the past month. On Jan. 3, fire destroyed the Sea Galley restaurant on C Street just north of Tudor Road. The restaurant was recently closed and was not occupied at the time. Investigators later determined that ‘vagrants’ were inside the building shortly before the fire was reported.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.