Fire claims Kenai home, shop

Posted: Sunday, June 09, 2002

A fire at a remote home in Kenai caused the Spur Highway to be closed for almost two hours Friday evening.

At around 5:30 p.m., the Kenai Fire Department was called to Mile 8.5 of the highway after residents reported seeing thick black smoke coming from a building located roughly one half mile down a narrow drive leading from the highway. By the time firefighters arrived at the scene, the structure was fully engulfed in flames.

The building, the residence and workshop of Fred Pearson, was a complete loss. The fire department estimated total damages to be $75,000. According to Assistant Fire Chief Mike Tilly, Pearson was not home at the time of the blaze.

"He left at around 2 in the afternoon to go fishing," Tilly said.

It took firefighters nearly an hour to extinguish the fire. Tilly said the blaze was somewhat complicated to fight for a couple reasons. In addition to being off the main highway, the building was apparently full of volatile substances.

"We had reports and could hear multiple, multiple rounds of ammunition going off. It looks like he had a bit of a mechanic shop in there, so there was all kinds of propane tanks, oxygen, acetylene torches. It was a fairly dangerous operation. Just a lot of explosions," Tilly said.

Additionally, the fire hydrant nearest the blaze was not working. So firefighters were forced to close the highway in order to stretch a length of hose across to reach another water source.

"We overcame that, although it was a long ways away. In Alaska, when you're dealing with water systems you always have to have a plan B."

Pearson's closest neighbor, Mabel Crandell, returned home after firefighters arrived on the scene to see smoke billowing from behind her house. She said she's always worried about the potential for a problem on Pearson's property, which she said is full of old boats, vehicles and more.

"I was always afraid this would happen one day. He's got all kinds of junk back there. He just likes to keep it. But anybody can do what they want on their own property, I guess," Crandell said.

Pearson could not be reached for comment.


A firefighter from Central Emergency Services pulls hose through a maze of cars on Fred Pearson's property during efforts to extinguish a fire that destroyed his home and shop Friday evening.

Photo by M. SCOTT MOON

Despite the tricky circumstances involved, Tilly said the operation was a textbook example of cooperation between various emergency responders.

"If nothing else, this was kind of a confidence builder. Every department down here needs each other, and that (fire) was a great example," he said

Tilly said that 27 personnel were involved in fighting the fire, including members of the Nikiski and Soldotna fire departments, Kenai police and workers from the state Division of Forestry. Tilly said the Division of Forestry was brought in because the home was located in a wooded area and there was the potential for a wildfire to be ignited.

One Kenai firefighter was injured when he was struck in the head by a coupling while pulling hose off a truck. Tilly declined to name the injured man, though he did say he was transported to the hospital for stitches after the fire was extinguished.

"He's kind of a bull. He'll be OK," Tilly said of the injured firefighter.

Investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing.

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