3 homes, community library lost in the Chiniak fire near Kodiak

Photo by Scott Wight. Shared via KMXT.org.
Photo by Scott Wight. Shared via KMXT.org.

The wind-whipped wildfire that threatened Chiniak on Kodiak Island may not turn out to be the community-wide disaster it appeared it might become when officials ordered the evacuation of all residents Thursday night.

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Kodiak Fire Chief Jim Mullican made an overflight of the community this morning and was surprised at what he saw.

“Very surprising compared to some of the pictures that were out on the internet and such of that huge wall of flame we could see from Deadman’s,” he said. “There obviously are some burned areas out there but it’s not the devastation you would think. It surprised me.”

He said three homes and the Chiniak Library were burned to the ground, and other homes and structures were visibly damaged.

“The loss of property, personal property doesn’t appear to be substantial,” Mullican said. “There are people who lost their homes, absolutely, and my heart goes out to them. But overall, we really lucked out, because this was setting up to be a very bad thing.”

The Chiniak K-8 School, on the same street as the library, was not hurt.

As of 2 p.m. the blaze had settled down enough that Chiniak residents were being allowed back into their homes, though the road is still closed to non-residents at the Roslyn Beach Bridge.

There is no immediate cause identified as the start of the fire, estimated to have covered over 2,000 acres, but it may have been a power line or transformer damaged by the winds. Kodiak Electric Association CEO Darron Scott said that reports of outages in the Chiniak area began coming in just before the fire around 9 p.m.

Kodiak City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski, who serves as the joint city-borough emergency management coordinator, said no injuries were reported and everyone from Chiniak appears accounted for.