Dow Island gazebo scorched by flames

Posted: Friday, July 03, 2009

An early Thursday morning blaze on Dow Island, located near Mile 42 of the Kenai River, sent Central Emergency Services firefighters scrambling, and has left fire investigators asking the public for help.

"At 7:33 a.m. we received a call reporting thick, black smoke on the backside of the island," said CES Fire Marshal Gary Hale.

The only access to the island is by boat, so CES dispatched two of its own watercraft from Bing's Landing, but firefighters arriving in an engine beat the boats there.

A homeowner in the area, Al Wilson, gave firefighters a portage over, and had his garden hoses hooked up so they could begin battling the blaze until their own boats arrived and pumps could be put into the river and utilized to fight the fire.

"It was structure fire of a 16-by-22-foot gazebo, 25 feet from a residence, and with wildlands involved," Hale said.

A lack of wind helped firefighters quickly get the blaze under control by 8:23 a.m., and they had the fire completely out minutes later.

"We got lucky with the wind. Had it been windy we would have had serious problems because of the amount of beetle-kill nearby," Hale said.

The owners of the gazebo, Ernie and Gina Hall, live in Anchorage and were not on Dow Island at the time of the fire. In fact, Hale said fire investigators learned that the couple had last been at the residence on Sunday, but a neighbor living up a bluff nearby saw a fire in either the fire pit or fireplace of the gazebo on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

"We're asking the public for help in providing any information as to who might have been on the property those days," Hale said.

Despite firefighters' effort to quickly extinguish the fire, Hale said the structure -- valued at roughly $1,500 and all contents and furniture within it, valued at $3,000 to $4,000 -- was a total loss.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Central Emergency Services at 262-4792.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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