Fire takes Birchwood man's home, cat

Monday, May 20, 2013 - 12:52
Generosity helps ease photographer’s pain from losses
Colin Tyler Bogucki took this photo of his A-frame cabin in 2012. On April 22, a fire broke out at the cabin, destroying the building and most of its contents. Bogucki’s cat, Spike, also died in the fire.

It’s been a day since the fire, and the still-smoldering remains of Colin Bogucki’s wooden A-frame hint at the life he lived in his quiet, birch-covered corner of Chugiak. Here, a pile of singed photography magazines, there, a melted camera body. Piled out back, there’s a jumble of half-burned skis and a fishing pole. In what used to be his living room, some charred moose antlers. A singed skillet says where the kitchen was.

Everything else is gone, destroyed in an early-morning fire that took most of Bogucki’s possessions as well as his best friend, a big ‘ole striped tabby cat named Spike.

“That’s what hurts the most,” said Bogucki, a teddy bear of a guy whose long hair and beard give him the look of an outdoorsy Alaskan everyman.

The scene of devastation described above took place April 23, one day after an early-morning fire turned Bogucki’s idyllic life in the woods off Birchwood Loop upside down. The loss of his home, his cat and his things was devastating for Bogucki, a self-employed photographer whose prom portraits, scenic prints and graduation photos hang proudly from the walls of dozens of local families. But in the week since the fire, Bogucki said he’s learned a valuable lesson about the value of friendship and the kindness of strangers.

“I’m getting donations from people I’ve never met,” said Bogucki. “It’s a [bad] way to find out how loved you are, but it’s certainly helped soften the blow.”

The outpouring of support began almost immediately, he said. A former fraternity brother in Minnesota started an online pledge drive. A friend offered to let him crash at her place. Seemingly everyone wanted to give him a guitar to replace the three he lost in the fire.

“Now I’ve got four guitars,” said Bogucki, who often plays at open mic nights around Anchorage.

Bogucki said he awoke on the morning of April 22 to the sound of smoke detectors ringing in his ears. He saw flames coming from the front of his house and quickly tried to use a fire extinguisher to control the blaze. When that didn’t work, be began throwing snow on the flames until he realized that, too, was hopeless.

A neighbor saw the fire and called 9-1-1, but by the time the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department arrived, it was getting to be too late for the old, wooden structure.

“It was fully involved when our guys got there,” said CVFD spokesman Jeff Hartley.

Hartley said the cause of the fire is unknown.

Bogucki could only watch as the home he’d lived in for six years went up in smoke.

“It was a helpless feeling,” he said.

In the days since the fire, Bogucki said he’s gone through some rough patches.

The loss of Spike — who he’d owned for eight years — hurt the most.

“It gets better day by day, but sometimes I just need to go shed some tears and then get on with my day,” he said.

Just a couple days after the fire, Bogucki memorialized his best friend with a paw-print tattoo on his right arm.

“He was my best buddy,” he said.

The news isn’t all bad for Bogucki, however. His prized collection of digital photo negatives was stored at another location, meaning his photography was mostly spared. And the outpouring of generosity he’s received — the website his friend set up has already generated more than $7,000 — has Bogucki looking to the future.

“You can curl up and regress or you can do your best to move forward and have a positive outlook,” he said.

Bogucki said he’d like to stay in Chugiak if he’s able to find a new place. He wants to continue living the life he loves — taking pictures of the Northern Lights, skiing in the moonlight and singing songs into open mics.

“I have to look at it as an opportunity to start over,” he said.

To donate to Bogucki, visit

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