Officials are investigating a large fire in Bethel that started just after 8 o’clock Monday night, behind the Bethel post office. The Fire destroyed an alcohol treatment center under construction by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.
No one was hurt in the fire and YKHC officials don’t know how it started.
A cloud of orange lit up the Southwest Alaska town’s horizon and could be seen across town.
Marlin Lake from Chevak stood outside in the rain nearby the fire looking on in disbelief. The 21-year-old says he had just been released from the hospital when he stepped outside and noticed the fire.
“When I first came out of the hospital I saw these big flames going up in the air. There was a couple explosions.” said Lake.
YKHC officials say the 12.5 million dollar alcohol treatment center had been under construction for about a year. The center was meant to be a 16-bed regional facility.
About a thousand yards away Jerry Fredericks with the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, AVEC, is assisting with traffic control and monitoring the town’s diesel power plant.
“We’re keeping an eye on it. Lucky it’s far enough away, but what a waste of a brand new building.”
Fredericks says he been monitoring the progress of the project.
“They had the roof on and it’s this foam panel building. They’re called Sips, they’re insulated panels and you can see how hot they burn,” said Fredericks.
Up closer the building crackles and pops as rain and snow fall.
Dan Winkelman the President and CEO of YKHC was fielding phone calls. He said he was most concerned about safety.
“I just don’t want anyone to get hurt, any of the fire crews or anyone, contain the fire as best they can. I thank everyone for that but I just don’t want anyone to get hurt over this,” said Winkelman.
Winkelman, told KYUK in an email Monday night that he does not believe the building is a total loss. He says the foundation is good as well as some panels and other materials at the site. He says the building is insured and adjusters as well as state arson investigators are scheduled to arrive Tuesday.