CES wreath glows red

Fires cause damage; one slightly injured

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Red light bulbs appeared on Central Emergency Services' wreath serving as testimony to two structure fires and a dryer fire that took place within 72 hours of each other over the weekend.

With a little more than two weeks left in the holiday season, fire marshal Gary Hale said more light bulbs could take on a crimson hue, especially as people struggle to keep warm.

CES's wreath was green until 8:25 p.m. Thursday when combustibles ignited a garage at 38130 Evergreen off Mile 85 of the Sterling Highway. According to a CES press release issued Monday, when firefighters arrived at the scene, the structure was fully involved. Firefighters got the fire under control within 30 minutes of arrival and out after an additional 45 minutes. The two-story structure and its contents were destroyed.

Investigators determined the fire was caused by a wood stove wall pipe that was allowed to penetrate through the structure's wooden ceiling and second-story floor.

At 8:37 p.m. Saturday, Kasilof residents Ken and Terry Sarver contacted CES dispatch to report smoke coming from the chimney and eaves over their garage. The first unit arrived at 24130 Griffing Court after 12 minutes and declared an active fire. Thirteen personnel got the fire under control within 21 minutes of arriving. The fire was reported out after an additional 20 minutes.

The kitchen contained most of the fire damage with the rest of the residence sustaining moderate to heavy smoke and heat damage.

Investigators determined an electrical problem with the dishwasher likely was the culprit of the fire. Evidence supports the fire originated from the motor or other electrical wire below the dishwasher.

Mark Berestoff, 35, of Soldotna went to the hospital with smoke inhalation after his dryer caught fire at approximately 3:50 Sunday afternoon. A natural gas pilot light ignited lint that had accumulated beneath the dryer in the family's mud room off the garage area. Four engines, one ladder truck, a medic unit and a command vehicle with 17 personnel responded and knocked the fire out in about 11 minutes. There was no fire damage to the residence or mud room; the house sustained moderate smoke damage.

Despite CES's challenge to the community at the beginning of December to "Keep the Wreath Green" by preventing structure fires, Hale said the fire department already is above its winter average of two structure fires a month. As people celebrate Christmas and New Year's in the next two weeks, lights, trees, candles and space heaters pose a potential threat to residences on the Kenai Peninsula.

"The wreath will stay up until Jan. 2 ,and we may or may not see more red lights if the weather continues as it is," Hale said, adding firefighters across the country including Alaska battle more structure fires during December, January and February than any other months during the year.

"There's a huge gamut of ignition sources still out there that may or may not cause additional fires within the next 15 to 16 days."

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