2 Anchorage New Year’s house fires leave 1 dead, 1 injured

the seal of a fire department
The seal of the Anchorage Fire Department. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage firefighters say two house fires over the New Year’s holiday weekend, which left one person dead and a second critically injured, are a reminder about the importance of smoke alarms.

The fatal fire, on the 1900 block of Olympic Drive off 100th Avenue, was reported at about 10:45 p.m. Saturday, according to an Anchorage Fire Department statement on Wednesday. Responding firefighters found flames engulfing about half of the home. They extinguished the blaze by 11:15 p.m.

Crews found the home’s sole occupant dead in the burned section of the home. The victim wasn’t identified Wednesday, pending notification of family.

“Investigators determined the fire was likely caused by improperly handled or disposed of smoking material,” said the fire department’s statement. 

AFD Assistant Chief Alex Boyd said Wednesday that the home didn’t appear to have any smoke alarms installed, since one wasn’t sounding at the scene.

“None of our crews heard or saw that – none of the bystanders heard or saw anything that indicated it was there, and we’re not finding evidence of non-working ones,” Boyd said. “So based on everything we’re seeing, we think there were no smoke alarms.”

The second fire, on the 1500 block of Ermine Street in Northeast Anchorage, was reported just before 11 p.m. Sunday by one of several escaped occupants who said smoke was emerging from the home. Fire crews found one resident still inside, who was taken to a hospital with critical injuries.

Firefighters believe the Ermine Street fire was started by the injured victim, according to Boyd. He declined to specify how, pending further investigation. He did say the blaze is not believed to be arson or the result of New Year’s fireworks.

The key difference in the two fires, Boyd said, is that the Ermine Street home had a working smoke alarm.

“Smoke alarms lead to that early notification, early escape, and the ability to get out of the home; (they) are very important things that were not present in the fatality fire,” Boyd said. “And they are what helped the guests to leave the (Ermine Street) home, is that they were alerted to the fire.”

Boyd urged residents to ensure smoke alarms are in working order with fresh batteries, and to have escape plans for how to leave their home in the event of a fire.

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