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2 fires burn Peninsula homes Sunday

Posted: October 22, 2012 - 9:38pm  |  Updated: October 22, 2012 - 9:40pm

Two separate fires kept the Kenai Peninsula’s emergency responders busy Sunday morning. A Nikiski family escaped their burning home after awaking to the sound of smoke detectors, and a Soldotna woman suffered minor injuries after the travel camper she lives in caught fire.

The residential fire in Nikiski occurred at about 3:30 a.m. The local fire department responded to the report of a structure fire at Foley Drive. Eight personnel arrived on scene within six minutes; they then requested additional assistance from the Kenai Fire Department, according to a press release.

Responders reported flames coming from the front and back of the three-story home. The fire was under control within 21 minutes, according to the press release.

The high-pitched chime of smoke detectors awoke Peter and Holly Malone — Holly first thought her cell phone alarm was ringing. They rushed upstairs to the living room, where they spotted a fire, Peter Malone said.

“We immediately turned to the kids’ rooms upstairs, ran up there and started gathering them up,” he said. “Some of the fire detectors upstairs had gone off, but not all of them, the ones with the doors closed.”

The Malones have four children, ages 5, 7, 8 and 10. Peter Malone recently installed extra smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout his home. The couple applied to adopt a child, and they were following state guidelines for foster care.

The family crawled under smoke as it filled the upstairs. They stayed low, Peter Malone said, as they made their way downstairs.

The fire had grown. The 5-year-old started heading for the front door — right next to where the flames were raging — and Peter Malone grabbed the boy. The six of them exited the house along with two dogs through the garage.

Gathering everyone into the car, Peter Malone drove a safe distance away from the fire. By that time, a neighbor had called the fire department.

The family stood and watched the fire fighters extinguish the flames, Peter Malone said.

It is uncertain what belongings in the home are recoverable, he said. Luckily, the kids’ rooms only suffered smoke and minor heat damage. The living room and garage are a total loss, however. The fire department estimates the value of the at-risk property at $350,000, which includes the home’s cost and its contents.

To donate money to assist the family, contact Kerry Malone at 907-395-0909.

The fire originated in the living room, but its cause is still under investigation, said Nikiski fire Sgt. Bryan Crisp.

Crisp attributes the family’s safety to functioning fire detectors. He advises Peninsula residents to check detectors monthly and change the batteries two times a year.

Three hours later, CES responded to the report of a possible structure fire at Whisper Way in Soldotna. Dispatch informed the responders while en route that the fire was a camper parked next to a residence. Crews arrived within 10 minutes and observed a 15-foot camper engulfed in flames, according to a CES press release.

Shortly after crews arrived, numerous explosions occurred within the camper, said Brad Nelson, CES safety officer.

“We lost count. There was probably about 15 to 20 explosions,” Nelson said.

Later, fire investigators determined propane bottles caused the explosions. The bottles were strewn about the camper, he said.

Investigation showed the fire ignited while the woman was changing out one of the propane bottles on a portable heater inside the camper. The source of ignition has not been determined, mainly due to a short interview, as the woman needed medical assistance.

She suffered first-degree burns on her forehead and arms, Nelson said. Fire fighters extinguished the fire while medical responders treated and transported the woman, according to the press release.

The fire destroyed the trailer and its contents, which were valued at $7,000. The residence adjacent to the camper was not damaged.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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