1 dead after fire in east Anchorage encampment

The Anchorage Fire Department in downtown Anchorage. (Joey Mendolia/Alaska Public Media)

One person died in a fire at an outdoor camp in east Anchorage on Thursday morning.

According to the Anchorage Fire Department, a passerby reported a fire in a wooded area of Bancroft Park at 7:20 a.m. Thursday.

Anchorage police and firefighters arrived and found the fire, a victim and one other person displaced by the fire. Crews got the fire under control within minutes.

Anchorage Fire Department Assistant Chief Alex Boyd said the person who died was asleep when a small heat source inside the tent started the fire, which appears to have caused their death.

“There’s no indication it wasn’t,” he said. “However, the medical examiner’s office will be the one that finally declares the cause of death.”

The Anchorage Police Department is investigating the death. The victim’s name won’t be released until next of kin are notified.

According to the fire department, a dozen people have now died in fires in Anchorage this year. Two others were also in outdoor encampments.

In an interview at the end of July, Boyd said firefighters were responding more frequently to fires affecting the city’s unhoused community. Now as winter begins, he said the department is hearing about fewer fires, but not necessarily because there are fewer.

“So we aren’t getting as many calls, because I think they’re just not being seen as frequently,” he said. “Like, this one was fairly well hidden off in the brush area, and not visible from the road until it actually caught fire. That was, a passerby called the fire in.” 

Boyd said the fire department and Red Cross held fire safety education outreach events over the summer at denser homeless sites and installed smoke detectors in campers, motorhomes and regular cars people were using as shelter.

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at jhsieh@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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