Cause of house fire unknown

Troopers called in on blaze that ravaged Sterling building

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2007

Witnesses heard voices and a car speeding away. Twenty minutes later they saw smoke coming from a house on Ruth Lane in Sterling.

By the time the first fire truck arrived three minutes later from the Central Emergency Services Sterling station, heavy smoke was pouring from the windows of the unoccupied, 1,300-square-foot frame house.

The Wednesday afternoon fire burned from the top down, according to CES Fire Marshal Gary Hale, and destroyed a good portion of the house and all of its contents. The loss is estimated at $58,700.

He said the son of the owners of the house, Clara and Joel Carlson, had been living there, but has been away in Anchorage for the past month making only two day trips to the house. Two others were checking on the place to be sure the pipes were not freezing.

Hale said a small electrical space heater was in the crawl space beneath the home to keep pipes from freezing, but it was not the source of the fire. Also a propane bottle was connected to a stove in the kitchen, but the fire did not start in the kitchen.

“We know the area of origin -- an enclosed porch area,” said Hale.

“What’s interesting is that the fire burned from the top down,” he said. Its cause is being listed officially as “undetermined.”

Alaska State Troopers are assisting in the fire investigation.

CES responded with two fire engines, a ladder truck, three tankers, a medic unit and three command vehicles and had the fire under control at 2:30, about 1 1/2 hours after the first fire truck arrived. The fire was declared out by 3:30 p.m.

No one was injured.

Hale said the house also contained two or three other space heaters and a wood stove for heat. Although natural gas service was available to the home, it was not connected.

“We had a fast-moving fire. We had smoke pouring out in 20 minutes,” he said.

The T-111-sided house was originally built in 1999, and had several add-ons.

The fire investigation is continuing.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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