Recent house fires in Juneau a reminder of heater safety as winter sets in

A Juneau fire scene
Steam billows off the side of a building as Capital City Fire/Rescue firefighters hose it down to prevent it from catching fire as the adjacent Thane Ore House burns on Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Over the last three weeks, three Juneau homes have burned. 

Dan Jager is Juneau’s fire marshal. He says the fires aren’t connected and there isn’t any evidence of crime.

But there is a common thread – using heaters for the first time with the onset of cold weather. 

“It’s been definitely busy around here as far as fires go,” Jager said.

He said that’s typical for early winter. 

In late October, a duplex on Wood Duck Avenue in the Mendenhall Valley caught fire. That fire was traced to an electric space heater.

In early November, separate fires destroyed two homes in the Sprucewood mobile home park, also in the Valley. One of those was attributed to a wood stove, and the other is still under investigation.

“Sometimes the [heating] systems hadn’t been inspected, or, you know, really up to par. Sometimes it’s user error,” Jager said. “And sometimes it’s none of that. It’s just, you know, just what happened.”

Jager says it’s important to make sure any heat source has three feet of clear space around it, and is maintained regularly. Electric space heaters should be turned off when no one is in the room with them.

Two fire stations in town offer wood stove chimney brushes that residents can borrow. But Jager also recommends that residents have professionals come to their homes and check out their heating elements.

Finally, he says it’s important to keep house numbers visible in case of emergencies – especially as snow starts to accumulate.

KTOO is our partner public media station in Juneau. Alaska Public Media collaborates with partners statewide to cover Alaska news.

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