Juneau fire destroys millions in property

Posted: Tuesday, June 04, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A fire fueled by propane and rounds of ammunition blazed through a self-storage warehouse Sunday, causing more than a million dollars in damage and destroying belongings of about 150 renters.

No one was hurt in the blaze, but firefighters dodged exploding bullets and shrapnel from 3,000 rounds of ammunition and two propane cylinders stored in the building.

Juneau firefighters began battling the fire at Juneau Self-Storage about 5 a.m. Sunday, but were forced out of the building by intense heat.

''Some of their face shields were melting,'' said Volunteer Fire Chief Max Mielke. Firefighters who climbed to the roof to attack the blaze were pulled off just before it collapsed.

The fire heated 3,000 rounds of ammunition stored in one of the units and two small propane cylinders stored in another, sending a barrage of bullets and shrapnel into the crowd of firefighters.

''They were bouncing off buildings and our trucks,'' Mielke said. ''One of our guys did get hit in the helmet with a piece of shrapnel, which put a pretty big dent in his helmet. He wasn't hurt though.''

Fire officials estimate the damage will be ''well into the millions.''

Renters scoured through still-smoking remains Sunday and Monday, hoping to salvage household goods, photographs and other possessions.

Cal Reichert said he and his wife had stored all of their belongings, including furniture and most of their clothing, in the unit while their new home was being built.

''We lost all of it, all of our pictures of everything we've done together, everything,'' Reichert said. ''Since we moved out of our apartment, we canceled our renters' insurance so none of it is covered.

''My wife was able to find her grandma's pearls in a drawer,'' he added. ''At least we have those.''

The cause of the fire is still undetermined, but officials said separate fires may have started in more than one unit. The fire marshal is investigating.

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