Blaze destroys home, memories on Klondike Street
A fire safe couldn’t save the most valuable thing Jayme Bates owned from a fire that destroyed her Chugiak home on Saturday, Feb. 25.
“I lost my most cherished possession, which was something my dad gave me when I was born. He died when I was 3 and now it’s gone,” Bates, 20, said near the smoldering remains of the house she rented from her mother on Klondike Street off South Birchwood Loop.
Bates, who lived alone, said the stuffed animal her father gave her was so important that she kept it locked in a fireproof safe along with several pictures and priceless mementos from her life.
“It was burnt to a crisp — the fire safe and everything in it,” said Bates, who was not home when the fire started.
“I was taking my dog to get his vaccine at the clinic,” she said. “I have a little puppy that needed a rabies vaccine. I got a call as we were getting into the car that, ‘Your house is on fire.’”
Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief Virginia McMichael said the CVFD got a call at around 9:40 a.m. that smoke was billowing from one of several buildings on the property where Bates’ house stood. Because firefighters were already gathered at nearby Latimer Station for training, their response was nearly instantaneous.
“From the time we got the tone out to us getting there was probably three or four minutes,” McMichael said.
Despite the quick response, the house — which Bates said used to be her grandfather’s — was already beyond saving when crews arrived.
“On our arrival it was pretty much fully involved,” McMichael said.
CVFD responded with 11 pieces of equipment, and a tender from Anchorage Fire Department Station 11 also helped fight the blaze. But all firefighters could do was protect several structures that share the property.
“It was a defensive operation,” McMichael said.
On Monday, she said the exact cause of the fire was still unknown.
Some ammunition and propane tanks inside the structure briefly caused firefighters to back away from the blaze as the sound of explosions could be heard coming from the burning building Saturday morning.
“There was a little excitement,” McMichael said.
By Saturday afternoon, the fire had been extinguished, and crews were working to put out any hot spots buried in the wreckage.
Bates said she planned to stay with relatives, and the Red Cross had also offered assistance with temporary housing.
She said she’s thankful her puppy needed to get vaccinated in the morning.
“It was lucky in one way and terrifying the next,” she said.
The home was a total loss.
“There could have been loss of life and fortunately there wasn’t,” Bates said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org