Residents evacuated as vehicle burns beneath downtown Anchorage building

Fire engines responded Wednesday to a vehicle fire in the parking garage below a residential building in Bootlegger Cove, near downtown Anchorage.

The fire was reported at 11:30 a.m. It remained confined to the garage area, but due to heavy smoke, residents were evacuated from the apartment building.

At least one vehicle was on fire and others were damaged, according to Anchorage Fire Department safety officer Steve Brown. It took firefighters about 10 minutes to get the blaze under control, he said.

Brown said that without fast action, the fire could have been significantly more destructive.

"We had to get out ahead of this," Brown said. "We used a lot of manpower."

At 12:45 p.m., crews were working to clear the smoke out of the building as residents stood outside with their pets and watched.

Paul Ongtoogok has lived in the building for more than a decade. When the commotion began, he was in the shower and missed the initial call for evacuation. But he said that by the time he was done showering, the smell of burning plastic was in the air.

"I opened the front door and the smoke was knee-high," Ongtoogok said.

"I got low, and I couldn't even see my hand," Ongtoogok said. He grabbed one of his two cats and his go bag and left. While firefighters worked, he stood at the corner of Nulbay Park, which looks over Cook Inlet, with his belongings in tow.

Ongtoogok wasn't sure when he'd be able to get back in his home, but was expecting smoke damage.

"There was smoke damage inside of the privately owned units, reported by AFD firefighters," AFD spokesman John See wrote in a release later.

Assistance from the Red Cross was requested for several families, See said. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.