A Nikiski couple feels certain they would have perished in an early morning fire had they not smelled smoke and woke up when they did.
“Another minute in there and we wouldn’t have woke up,” said Dan Flippin on Tuesday.
A fire shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday completely destroyed the 70-by-14-foot mobile home he and Lynn Wheeler lived in on Wik Lake. The couple also lost all their belongings as well as three pets: a 6-year-old Labrador retriever, named Chief; a medium sized, 16-year-old dog, named Chelsea; and a 16-year-old cat, named Booter.
Due to a fast response by the Nikiski Fire Department, a nearby garage containing Wheeler’s newer Oldsmobile sedan was saved.
Flippin said he had been burning grass and weeds from around the mobile home earlier Monday evening, and apparently the fiber-board backing of the trailer’s metal skirting caught fire and began to smoulder.
After finishing burning weeds, Flippin said he and Wheeler had an outdoor barbecue cookout, went inside and watched a little TV before retiring to bed.
“At about 2 a.m., I smelled smoke,” he said.
“I always keep a window open at night, so I was probably getting a lot of fresh air while the fire was already burning (the home).
“We got up and suddenly the whole place was engulfed.
“We just barely got out,” Flippin said.
He said Nikiski firefighters were there within minutes.
When asked if he heard the smoke detector sounding, Flippin said he didn’t hear it, if it was in fact going off.
The couple had been living in the mobile home for 1 1/2 years and were in the process of purchasing it.
“We’re still gonna buy it and just start over,” he said.
Flippin said the couple lost everything, including the keys to Wheeler’s car.
“I got out with just my underwear,” he said.
“The Red Cross has been really good. They were out by 10 o’clock (Tuesday morning) with tooth brushes, shampoo ... the stuff you need right away,” he said.
Annette Hakkinen, Kenai Peninsula district manager for the Red Cross, said the organization has arranged for the couple to stay at the Nikiski Inn (Hunger Hut), and will have vouchers ready for them for food and clothing. Flippin said the owners of the Hunger Hut offered to let the couple stay there as long as necessary.
Flippin said Kenai State Farm Insurance agent Kristie Leaf, Wheeler’s employer, has given the couple a cell phone to use and arranged to have new keys made for Wheeler’s car.
“Kristie, the Hunger Hut, people around Nikiski have just been tremendous,” he said.
The mobile home and the contents were not insured.
Donations of clothing and household items for the couple can be dropped off at the Red Cross office at 503 Frontage Road in Kenai.
The Nikiski Fire Department responded at 2:21 a.m. and had the fire under control by 3:15 a.m., according to a department press release.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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