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Zero injuries in duplex fire leaves one family with renewed sense of thankfulness

By KTVA Alaska 7:26 PM November 27, 2013

Six people left homeless in fire that gutted half of duplex

ANCHORAGE – A Tuesday night fire tore through a Russian Jack duplex, leaving six people homeless and Edna DeJesus wondering what she and her son will do with her grandkids for Thanksgiving.

Firefighters said fumes from a garage fuel tank are the likely culprit of the blaze after a nearby boiler kicked in, igniting the fuel with a explosion residents in the northeast neighborhood said felt like a vehicle slamming into their homes.

Edna DeJesus was at home with her dog Sam.

“I had finished cleaning the kitchen, so I sat down to watch a program and then all of a sudden I heard the explosion,” she said.

She thought it was from nearby JBER, but then she looked out her window.

“That’s when I saw the smoke,” she said. “It was really black, I mean, I had never seen such black smoke in my life, and that’s when I knew I had to get out of here.”

She ran downstairs, where she found her neighbor, Annette Wilson, already at her door. Wilson grabbed Edna — she left Sam in her garage — and packed her into the van already laden with kids. The group drove away to safety down the block.

“One minute, everything is going great, and then in a flash, it disappears,” Wilson said Wednesday afternoon. “I guess it’s the season to be grateful, and to reflect on our families and homes and our lives.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Edna was walking through her house surveying the damage. Save for streaks of ash in an upstairs bedroom closet, the home was remarkably undamaged. The acrid smell of smoke hung in the air as she looked through belongings in her bedroom. Her son Jessie Nieves waited outside for an insurance adjustor to arrive.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said, looking out the basement window. The power had been cut from the building, leaving only faint afternoon sunlight reflecting into the room.

“The most difficult thing is that we were going to have our Thanksgiving here,” she said. “We were going to have the kids, and  …” she trailed off. “That’s the most heartbreaking thing, that we’re not going to be able to do that.”

But today, with everyone safe and sound, Edna said she has a new understanding of what it means to be thankful.

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