Stebbins fire destroys clinic, washeteria

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A weekend fire destroyed the building that houses the washeteria, health clinic and two apartments in the western Alaska village of Stebbins.

The fire was discovered by a teacher who lived in an apartment above the washeteria at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. The teacher escaped with his dog.

Mayor Bob Ferris and village police tried to put out the flames with fire extinguishers.

The village has minimal firefighting equipment and doesn't have a breathing apparatus for volunteers to wear inside a burning building, Ferris said. Neighboring St. Michael, 11 miles away, has a portable fire station, but Alaska State Troopers said no one in either village was trained in how to use it.

The fire appeared to originate in the men's sauna, Ferris said. The building was reduced to rubble less than two hours after the fire was discovered.

Stebbins already had been working to get funding for a new clinic. The Denali Commission, which funds projects to improve rural infrastructure, had approved a $680,000 grant, provided the community can come up with matching funds. A request is pending with the state for an additional $350,000.

A temporary clinic has been set up in the village teen center.

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