Rural Alaska

Kotzebue man remains missing nearly a week after restaurant fire

A Kotzebue man who was thought to be in the Bayside Inn and Restaurant when it caught fire last week is still considered missing, the fire department said.

The restaurant and inn caught fire early last Thursday. The fire department was called to the area just before 5:30 a.m. and the first crew was on scene within six minutes, said Kotzebue Fire Chief Kelly Marcus. Smoke and flames were pouring from the building when they arrived, he said.

Marcus said cellphone service was down throughout much of the town because of severe weather, so several police officers left the scene to retrieve firefighters from their homes. The flames quickly spread throughout the structure as firefighters battled 33 to 47 mph winds with gusts up to 60 mph on Thursday, Marcus said.

Four people made it out of the building, and one was taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, according to Marcus. An online fundraiser for the restaurant said one of the owners ran into the building to help two others out.

Another man was believed to have been in the building during the fire. Marcus said “right now, we have not found anything so they are considered a missing person.” Police said 52-year-old Jung Lee was still missing Wednesday.

Marcus said the weather made it difficult to control the blaze because the firefighters' equipment continually froze as they doused the flames with water. The building was a complete loss, and Marcus said firefighters were on scene until Saturday to ensure the fire would not reignite.

“This is this is the biggest fire I’ve been a part of and I’ve been with the department about 10 years,” Marcus said. “There’s definitely been other fires in bad conditions, but this was by far the most difficult.”

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at