Early morning fire claims Kasilof home

Posted: Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Kasilof man tried to save his two-story home from fire with a garden hose Tuesday morning but ultimately lost the battle and his Amber Drive cabin.

Craig Rooke woke up at 4 a.m. to stoke his wood stove. He went back to bed but before he could fall back asleep, "things got really warm," Central Emergency Services Deputy Fire Marshal Brad Nelson said.

Rooke discovered that his chimney was red hot and he left the house to grab a gardening hose to attempt to put out the overheating stove himself, according to Nelson. When he discovered one of his hoses was frozen, Rooke went into his garage to grab a different hose. By the time he hooked it up and returned to his house, smoke and flames were spreading. He battled the fire alone for more than two hours, according to Nelson.

When neighbor Tom Ferguson, 46, woke up around 6:30 a.m. to start his morning routine, he saw Rooke's house "engulfed in flames."

"The second floor of the house was blazing," Ferguson said. Ferguson called 911 and told Rooke to stop spraying the house because help was on the way.

"He was still trying to get the blaze out," Ferguson said. "Maybe he was in a state of shock. It's hard to say what he was thinking."

Nelson said Rooke had recently returned to the area and was not aware of the newly built Kasilof CES station in the area. That's why Rooke didn't seek help sooner, according to Nelson.

When CES arrived, the house was already in trouble, Nelson said.

"It was two and a half hours into the game at that point," the marshal said. "It was fully engulfed by time we got there."

Nelson said fire crews were able to rescue about 30 percent of the home, which was built in the 1920s, but the structure is almost "completely gone." Estimated property loss totals $65,000, according to Nelson. No one was hurt in the fire and no one else is thought to have been in the house at the time of the blaze, according to Nelson.

Nelson said the incident demonstrates why people should not try to put fires out by themselves. Firefighters are specially equipped to take on big blazes, he said.

"Had we been called earlier, we probably would have been able to make a big difference," Nelson said.

CES had the fire contained by 8 a.m. and out by 9:45 a.m., according to the deputy marshal.

For now, Ferguson has offered up his fishing cabin to Rooke.

"I'm actually here now getting things set up for him," Ferguson said over the phone Tuesday. "It's the neighborly thing to do, man."

Reporter Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com.

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