3 people die in Bethel apartment fire

a firetruck outside of an apartment
(Olivia Ebertz/KYUK)

Three people died early Friday morning in a fire in a low-income rental unit in Bethel, according to Bethel Fire Chief Daron Solesbee.

“There were reports of people who were entrapped,” Solesbee said. “We were not successful getting anybody out.”

Solesbee said that he could not publicly identify the victims. He also said that an additional two people were taken to the hospital. He said that he could not comment on their current condition.

The fire broke out at an Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority apartment complex.

Solesbee said that the fire is still smoldering. So far, it has destroyed two units in a building that he said has six units in total.

“We’re trying to overhaul it right now and find all the hidden fires,” Solesbee said. “There’s a lot of cracks and stuff in the walls and up in the ceiling and that kind of stuff, and we have some floor collapse and roof collapse issues.”

Solesbee said that all of the people who died in the fire were in one unit, and that the second unit that burned was unoccupied. He said that he and his staff responded to the fire at 4 a.m. Friday with several fire trucks and ambulances.

The president and CEO of AVCP Regional Housing Authority said that the apartment complex is known as the Bethel Low Rent Units. He said the building is likely at least three decades old, and the larger complex contains 31 units.

Solesbee said state fire marshals are on their way to investigate the cause of the fire. The fire department is understaffed right now, and he said that his firefighters are working hard on putting out the rest of the fire.

“We’re all pretty tired; we’ve been here since early this morning and we’re probably going to be here most of the day,” Solesbee said. “We’re just trying to get through it and just keep focusing on the task. We’re just trying to just deal with the situation that we have.”

Solesbee asked the public to be careful when driving near the apartment complex since there are lots of people and parked cars at the scene.

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Adelyn Baxter is Alaska Public Media's program producer. Reach her at abaxter@alaskapublic.org.