Fire destroys the only grocery store and fuel source in Stebbins

The ANICA Stebbins store, the only store in the Western Alaska village, burned down after catching fire on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Linda Greta Camillus)

A fire burned down the only store in the Western Alaska village of Stebbins Tuesday morning. 

Lydia Raymond-Snowball is president of the Stebbins Community Association, the local tribal government. She said her daughter Gwen, who lives right next to the ANICA Stebbins store, told her about the fire at around 6 a.m.

“Looking at the store, I mean I grew up with it all my life, and so did practically everyone here. It was our only store standing,” Raymond-Snowball said. “Now it’s gone.”

The ANICA Stebbins store. (Courtesy of Linda Greta Camillus)

Raymond-Snowball said a few homes near the store sustained minor damage to windows. She said she’s grateful it wasn’t a windy day in Stebbins, a Yup’ik community of roughly 630 people.

“There was no wind at all, and when it did catch wind, it was blowing toward the ocean, which is the west,” Raymond-Snowball said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state’s Emergency Operations Center is coordinating with the village on a response. Emergency center spokesman Jeremy Zidek said the store was the main supplier of fuel in the village.  

“They don’t have electrical fuel pumps at this time, but they are able to do gravity feed and still get fuel out of that facility,” Zidek said.

Zidek said between 60 and 70 homes lost power during the fire, but Alaska Village Electric Cooperative officials have restored power to most of the homes. He said the store was insured, and the community is using an old washeteria as a temporary store. As of now, he said, it’s not known what caused the fire.

Raymond-Snowball said late Tuesday afternoon that the fire was out, but the site of the store is still smoky, with only one of its walls still standing. She said she’s hopeful that goods will still be able to be flown in from the local hub village of Unalakleet. 

Stebbins is about 120 miles southeast of Nome, across the Norton Sound, and was among many Western Alaska villages that flooded due to the remnants of Typhoon Merbok in September.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org

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