Fire Burns Bethel Alcohol Treatment Center Construction Project

Photo by Dean Swope
(Photo by Dean Swope)

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.

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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.

(Photo by Dean Swope)
(Photo by Dean Swope)

“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.

(Photo by Dean Swope)
(Photo by Dean Swope)

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.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.