Fire in East Anchorage apartment building displaces 3 families

A blaze that appeared to have spread from a top-floor balcony damaged a Russian Jack-area apartment building early Monday. No one was injured, officials said.

Eighteen firefighting units responded to the fire, reported at about 6:25 a.m. at 1580 Russian Jack Drive, east of Bragaw Street. The blaze spread to the roof of the building and was under control within 40 minutes, fire officials said.

"The initial arriving company called for a second unit due to the size of the building and one missing resident," Assistant Fire Chief Alex Boyd said at the scene. "The missing resident did eventually turn up off-site."

Kathy Farmer, who lived in the affected building with three teenagers, said a balcony "was just totally ablaze and they put it out very fast."

Other residents of the building also stood outside as firefighters extinguished the fire.

Residents from six units will need to be relocated, said Greg Cerbana, director of public relations for Weidner Apartment Homes, which owns the building. Two units were destroyed by the fire; four others are being checked for structural damage, Cerbana said.

Residents unaffected by the fire weren't allowed to enter the building as officials continued to investigate the cause.

Weidner provided the temporarily displaced tenants with meals through the day. If the building wasn't cleared by nighttime, Red Cross Alaska planned to provide shelter, Cerbana said.

The tenants from the uninhabitable units will be relocated to other Weidner properties, Cerbana said.

David Sharp Jr., who lives in a nearby building, said he saw flames shooting from the balcony and a chimney.

"There was nothing but flames -- the moment the smoke was out, there was just more flames," he said.

Boyd said the origin and cause of the fire were still under investigation Monday morning.

The extent of the damage to the building remained unknown but Cerbana said a full roof replacement would be likely.

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.