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Fairview fire displaces dozens, leaves four families homeless

By KTVA Alaska 11:59 PM November 8, 2013

Blaze damages three units and roof

ANCHORAGE – An early morning fire in Fairview has turned out every resident of a 28-room multiplex.

The Friday fire caused heavy damage to three rooms on the third floor, as well as the building’s roof. Firefighters said smoke damage permeated throughout the third floor.

“The initial calls came in about 3 a.m., multiple calls reporting heavy fire,” said Anchorage Fire Department Captain Jason Dolph.

Nearly 40 firefighters and 12 units responded to the blaze at Northwind Apartments on east 11th Avenue. Heavy flames on the third floor put firefighters right to work.

“We got crews into the upstairs right away,” Dolph said, working clean up several hours after the fire was contained. “We still had occupants inside, so they were able to help affect rescues for those occupants.”

More units responded with six additional backup units, as residents made their way out of the blaze.

”I woke up and saw a bright light outside,” said first floor resident Michael Holmes. “I thought there might be a new streetlight outside, and it was a blazing fire. And then the fire alarm went off a couple minutes later and I realized, I needed to get outta there.”

One floor up, resident Mike Raas said he also woke up to alarms. “I just kind of waited there hoping it would go away, that it was a false alarm,” he said. “I started to actually smell smoke, and at that point I knew I had to get out.”

Some scrambled outside with nothing but what they wore to bed, while others slept right through the alarms.

”There were some people that didn’t get out, not until about 15 minutes later,” Holmes said. “They didn’t know it was a fire, [they] slept right through it, so they’re kind of in bad shape.”

The Red Cross was there to help them. “Volunteers were able to go in the middle of the night and assist people on scene displaced from their homes,” said Kelley McGuirk with the Red Cross of Alaska.

“We provided temporary shelter in hotels for four families last night, and also were helping people who lost clothing and food, to replace those items.”

A canteen vehicle offered food and warm drinks for firefighters, while a People Mover bus was dispatched to keep the displaced warm.

It didn’t take long for firefighters to knock down the blaze. Despite the flames, no one was injured.

“I looked at [my neighbor’s window], and I thought someone’s burning alive. I thought there’s no way someone survived that,” Holmes said. “Sure enough, I talked to the guy five minutes after that. He’s in boxers, you know, no shoes on, so it’s truly amazing no one was hurt.”

McGuirk said, with the units destroyed and so few in the 28-unit complex looking for help, more could be coming forward this weekend.

“A lot of people that were in the destroyed or more majorly damaged units of the apartment left in the middle of the night, so we anticipate that we will hear from them.”

No one is being allowed back into the building for several days as property manages and insurers assess the damage. With electricity and heat shut off — and a damaged roof that “doesn’t even protect from the elements,” according to Dolph — firefighters said it could be days before people can return.

As of Friday night, there was no word on what started the fire or an estimate for the cost of the damages.

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