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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

ALASKA PENINISULA & BECHAROF:Fire Consumes Duplex

Region 7, July 19, 2013
A tanker draws water from a portable reservoir while fighting the Refuge house fire in King Salmon.
A tanker draws water from a portable reservoir while fighting the Refuge house fire in King Salmon. - Photo Credit: n/a

At 4 a.m. on March 16, Wildlife Biologist Dominique Watts woke to hissing and popping sounds. His alarm clock was off, indicating the power was out. He ran downstairs to discover his home was on fire.

 

Due to unknown causes, fire started on one side of the government-owned duplex. Dom immediately called 9-1-1, then used a fire extinguisher to suppress the visible flames. A propane tank was within the fire zone, so he grabbed it and ran outside, throwing it far from the house.

In the other side of the duplex, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist Ronald Britton was sleeping. Dom pounded on the front door, and getting no response, ran to the back, intending to go through a window. Luckily, he found the back door unlocked, and ran upstairs to alert Ron. Then he raced back to his side of the structure and grabbed a few things to rescue. Ron exited the building, groping through the thick smoke with some belongings, and drove his truck out of harm’s way.

The Bristol Bay Borough Volunteer Fire Department responded with every volunteer in town and all their equipment. The fire was inside the wall, and spread to Ron’s side, pushed by a northeast wind. Volunteers were on the scene until midnight the following night. An estimated 100,000 gallons of water was poured onto the house, but smoke continued to rise from the wreckage for several more days.

Friends, co-workers, and neighbors helped Ron and Dom salvage personal items from the ruin, assisted by volunteer firefighters. An account was set up at the local bank in their names.

The most important thing, said Acting Refuge Manager Tina Moran, is that both men survived.

The duplex was located in a neighborhood built by the Federal Aviation Administration in the mid-nineties. The ruins of the house were demolished, and the debris hauled to the landfill in Naknek. Clean-up of the site is ongoing.

Contact Info: Julia Pinnix, 907-246-1211, Julia_Pinnix@fws.gov