CES douses three fires over weekend

Photo courtesy Joe Kashi The remains of the Clam Shell Lodge smolder in this photo taken Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 in Clam Gulch, Alaska. The building, which had not been open since 2011, burned down Friday night.

The Central Emergency Services firefighters kept busy this weekend with a series of structure fires around the central Kenai Peninsula.


The first call came for the Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch. Some passersby reported the building to be on fire around 9:36 p.m. Friday night, and CES responded with four engines, four tankers, a medic unit, two unit vehicles and two chief officer vehicles. The agency also called for mutual aid from the Ninilchik volunteer fire department, so altogether there were about 24 firefighters on scene, said CES Captain Terry Bookey.

The landmark lodge, which was built in the early 1960s and served as a central meeting place for many of the small communities of the central peninsula between Kenai and Homer before closing in 2011, was a total loss. Though most of the crews were released around 4 a.m. Saturday morning, some stayed to watch the building, which was still burning in some places. CES is keeping an eye on it in case of flareups from hotspots buried in the ash, Bookey said.

“When fires of this nature occur in such big buildings, it’s really nearly impossible to get to the seat of the coals where things are burning there,” he said. “It’s really just putting water on stuff you can see at the time and if any other stuff pops up, you come back and take care of it.”

The building has been vacant since the owner closed it down after her husband and co-owner’s death in 2011 and the property went into foreclosure. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Bookey said. Firefighters didn’t find anyone in the building in need of medical attention and had no reports of anyone being inside, he said.

Late Saturday afternoon, firefighters were finishing up transporting a person to Central Peninsula Hospital after a collision between a snowmachine and a car when they were called out to another structure fire on Gaswell Road near Soldotna. A two-story home with a greenhouse attached had caught fire, Bookey said. Crews responded at approximately 4:43 p.m. and had the fire under control by 5:25, he said.

“…There was some smoke, heat and water damage to the first floor (of the house),” he said. “The attached greenhouse portion was pretty much destroyed, and there was a one and a half story area … mostly used for storage that had heavy fire damage. There was a front office area and the living area (that were not very damaged).”

The firefighters stayed on scene for about an hour after the fire was declared under control to monitor it, declaring it officially out at approximately 6:21 p.m. The cause of the fire is also still under investigation, Bookey said. No one was transported for medical treatment, even though the residents were home at the time, he said.

While on scene on Gaswell Road, another fire was reported near mile 12 of Kalifornsky Beach Road in a chimney. Some of the responders split off to respond to it and were able to contain and extinguish the fire in the chimney, Bookey said.

“They were able to get in there really quick and extinguish the chimney fire,” he said.

The residents were home at the time and were getting ready to leave when they spotted a lot of embers in the chimney and called CES. The chimney had been installed in the last year and the resident’s didn’t think they needed to clean it, he said. It’s important to remember to clean out chimneys at least once in the fall and once or twice in the winter if the woodstove is used frequently, he said.


Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.


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