Tenants of Burned Apartment Building Return
Arrest made in suspected arson
Photos to left and below by Lacie Grosvold
ANCHORAGE - The sweet burnt smell lingered after the fire that destroyed a 24-unit apartment building near Eureka and 36th Avenue on Wednesday morning.
Scott Harris was there to secure the building and guide tenants through who might have something left. As daylight hit, about 10 a.m. on Saturday, he unlocked the temporary fence around the building. "It's just a sad situation," he said.
It's sad for tenants like John Payne who lived there for about three years. He walked to the building to check out his former home. It's where he spent the past few Christmases on the third floor. There, the fire was the worst. There is no ceiling; daylight shines through what's left of his window. "I was going to wash those curtains," he said. "That's kind of funny, man, looking at them, thinking I was going to clean them."
He's been staying at a hostel nearby since the fire. He said he likes the apartment's central location in Midtown. He said he was eating breakfast when the fire alarms went off. It happened so fast, all he could do was grab his keys -- "to the front door of this place," he laughed.
Payne thinks he knows the woman accused of arson. "They were good neighbors," he said referring to Jenae Collins -- accused of starting the fire -- and her partner, who lived a few doors down. "I don't think it was arson... maybe a mistake, a cigarette burning or something, but not arson."
Others aren't so sure. Chyanne Borgan doesn't live in the destroyed building, but her apartment building is just a few yards away. Her building suffered some smoke damage. She said when she heard that someone was arrested for arson, "I was pissed. I'm not gonna lie, I was mad." She talked about kids missing their toys and parents taking babies out of apartments. "I just don't understand why someone would do that."
Arson or not, all of these units were occupied, and that means residents have to start looking for another place to stay and getting just the necessities. Payne said he was wearing clothes he'd just bought and they're not as warm as what he's used to wearing. He talked about the church nearby that helped victims and gave them a place to stay after the fire. He said when he went to the library and told them he wanted to find out how much he owed for the the books and DVDs he'd borrowed, they said not to worry about it. "everybody's been really great... I wish people could always be like that."
Above, tenant John Payne surveys the wreckage.