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Fire damages South Anchorage apartment building

Posted: Wednesday, June 07, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A fire that raced through a 30-unit apartment complex on the city's South side displaced more than 60 tenants, but no one was reported injured.

Investigators traced the cause of Tuesday's blaze to unattended cooking on a stove in one of the apartments.

Firefighters rescued one man on the top floor who was sleeping and was unaware the building was burning, said Cleo Hill, a spokeswoman for the Anchorage Fire Department.

The fire was reported at 5:23 p.m. and grew to three alarms before it was brought under control more than an hour later. The Fire Department had 17 pieces of equipment either fighting the blaze or standing by in case they were needed.

Fire crews remained on the scene late into the night, wetting down hot spots.

When firefighters arrived, the top floor of the building was engulfed in flames and dense, black smoke was rolling from the roof. The blaze threatened an adjacent building that housed a dry cleaning business, but firefighters doused it with water and there was little, if any, fire damage, Hill said.

The blaze also forced the evacuation of another apartment building because of an underground gas leak. Crews with Enstar Natural Gas Co. arrived with a backhoe and dealt with the leak.

The fire apparently began on the third floor of the three-story wood structure. Flames consumed the top floor and spread to the second floor. The bottom floor sustained mostly water damage.

''The top floor is heavily damaged,'' Hill said. ''The building looks like it is probably untenable. One wall is questionable.''

''It rolled through ... so fast because there was nothing to stop it,'' Firefighter-paramedic Mike Melchert told the Anchorage Daily News. ''The attics are hot and dry, and it goes like kindling.''

A structural engineer was to evaluate the building's soundness. No one will be allowed back into the building until that can be assessed, Hill said.

The Red Cross, meanwhile, helped find temporary homes for the displaced families. Many found shelter at a nearby recreation center.



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