A 39-year-old airman at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has been identified as the person who died in mid-December when a fifth-wheel trailer in Wasilla became engulfed in flames, a statement from the base said.
An Alaska state trooper had been patrolling a neighborhood just before midnight Dec. 15 when he saw a cloud of smoke, troopers said in a statement at the time. A fifth-wheel trailer was engulfed in flames when the trooper arrived in the area near Carlsbad Place.
Tech. Sgt. Steven Wesley Huffines was inside the trailer and died, the base said Thursday.
Three people and their pets were evacuated from a home next to the trailer to which flames had begun to spread. A GoFundMe page for the surviving family said they were unable to return home because of damage caused by the blaze.
A 55-gallon drum had been retrofitted as a wood heating stove and was being used inside the trailer, causing the fire, said troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel.
“Similar homemade drum-style wood stoves are found throughout Alaska, however they should only be used outside and are not safe for use inside of a home, cabin, or trailer,” he said.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the fire and the Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the exact cause of death, the base said.
Huffines, of Van, Texas, was a contracting officer assigned to the 673rd Contracting Squadron. He reported to JBER in 2017 for the second time, the base said. He’d been with the Air Force since 2004 and was previously stationed at Barksdale and Laughlin bases.
“Wes was a great non-commissioned officer and leader,” said Lt. Col. Jon L. Hobart, 673rd Contracting Squadron commander. “You could count on him to be at your side and ready to serve, regardless of the circumstance.”