Fire in makeshift camp structure kills woman in Anchorage

A woman died in a fire inside a makeshift shelter early Thursday, the Anchorage Fire Department said.

Firefighters were called to the intersection of Alpenhorn Avenue and Mockingbird Drive, off Brayton Drive near Bancroft Park south of Tudor Road, at about 7:20 a.m., the department said in a statement. They found a “fire victim and a fire burning in the wooded area several hundred feet from the intersection,” according to the statement.

The Anchorage Police Department said responders gave the woman CPR before she was declared dead.

The fire was under control by 7:40 a.m.

Investigators believe the fire was “started by a small heat source inside the tent where the fire victim was sleeping.” Another person staying at the camp was uninjured.

The woman’s name had not yet been released on Thursday evening.

At the scene around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, a small fire, apparently reignited after firefighters left hours earlier, smoldered amid the remains of a structure made of logs, tarps and metal supports.


People living in tents and other makeshift dwellings often use heat sources including propane stoves, which fire safety experts warn against. The fatal fire happened as a major snowstorm hit Anchorage, and as an estimated hundreds of people continue to camp in outdoor spaces around Anchorage with limited indoor winter shelter options.

The death was Anchorage’s 12th fire fatality of the year and 19th in Alaska this year, the department said.

ADN photojournalist Bill Roth contributed reporting.

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Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.