Community reacts to Butte fire that killed five children
After hearing the news of the trailer home fire in Butte that killed five children, ages three to 12, Tammie Kerby said she and her colleagues immediately wanted to help.
"I know the first thing out of my boss's mouth was, 'Let's do a spaghetti feed, let's do what we can to help these guys, let's raise some money for them'", Kerby, the manager of Klondike Mike's in Palmer, said.
Alaska State Troopers say it received word of the fire on Wickham Drive just before 7 a.m. Thursday. Two of the children were initially unaccounted for, but officials confirmed the remains of all five children were recovered.
Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said nothing further was available on whether the fire is initially considered suspicious.
"With trailer fires in general, they burn very hot and very fast," Peters said. "It doesn't give a lot of time for people to move around. Certainly, smoke inhalation is always a concern, too, with fires."
Peters called the fire's effect on the close-knit Butte community "devastating."
"It's devastating -- it's devastating on the whole community, the neighbors, law enforcement, people that respond to it, the firefighters that respond to it," Peters said. "Any death is bad enough, but then you have five and they're small children -- it really is going to be impacting the community for a while."
Kerby said their restaurant joined others in preparing food for first responders.
"We made up a bunch of French fries and we sent out like 10 orders of French fries to help feed them," she said. "They came by and picked them up."
Bodenburg Butte Baptist Church pastor Bill Lightner and his wife, Marcia, said their doors are open to anyone needing help in the community due to this fire.
"The first thought that I had was what can we do?" Bill said.
They didn't know the family affected by this fire, but said a church is meant to help bring people together to "offer comfort and shelter."
"We'd like to extend ourselves out to offer anything we can to be there for them," Marcia said.
Kerby said she will be contacting businesses over the next several days to help organize some form of outreach and support and hopes to have that finished by next weekend.
Otto Feather, the Mat-Su Borough's director of emergency services, said by phone, Thursday was a "tough day."
Feather said about 20 firefighters from various fire departments in the area headed to the scene, finding the trailer fully engulfed in flames.
A spokesperson for the Mat-Su Borough School District said response teams and grief counselors were sent to sites in the area affected by the fire. She declined to name the sites pending identification of the victims.
Peters said the investigation into the fire is ongoing. A spokesperson for the Red Cross confirmed by phone the organization is assisting two adults displaced by the fire with immediate financial assistance and have extended mental and spiritual resources, as well.