Fire tore through a Nome eight-unit multiplex Thursday night, displacing more than 20 people and gutting the building with flames that refused to subside after more than an hour of active firefighting.
Nome emergency dispatchers say they received calls starting at 7:07 p.m. reporting “black smoke and fire” coming from the apartment at the corner of East 3rd Avenue and Moore Way.
Flames licked the southwest face of the L-shaped multiplex as smoke billowed from the second- and first-story windows. Within minutes the vinyl siding of the southwest face boiled away; a deep black gash belched cinders and smoke on the building’s side.
Brian Volk, a teacher at Nome’s NACTEC technical school, lives in the building with his girlfriend and three children. He said he saw the smoke “around 7:15” and came outside to “group of people already watching.”
Firefighters with the Nome Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene at 7:10 with five fire trucks, dispatchers said; EMTs with the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department arrived at 7:16 with two ambulances and within minutes transported two people to Norton Sound Regional Hospital for “minor smoke inhalation,” EMTs on the scene said.
Fire crews did an immediate sweep, evacuating the building with no further injuries as persistent flames leapt toward the roof. Power cables connected to the building crackled in the heat of the fire; dispatchers cut power to the building around 7:25 as crews used a bolt cutter to sever two power lines running from the building.
Firefighters on one truck’s turntable ladder attempted to vent the flames using a chainsaw where the roof met the wall as fire crews with hoses continued to douse the blaze from the building’s western face.
More volunteer firefighters arrived, brining reserve oxygen tanks as fire crews began to enter the building just after 8:03 p.m., but efforts to knock the fire down forced them out again; a half hour later, flames were still visible on the roof.
Just minutes before 9 p.m., flames were no longer visible and firefighters were able to venture inside once again, tossing smoldering debris out of the building’s windows.
The Bering Straits Native Corporation owns the building. Vice President Jerald Brown said at the scene said the building houses families and BSNC employees.
Brian Stockman, manager at the BSNC-owned hotel the Aurora Inn (located mere yards away from the scene of the blaze) said the inn was offering rooms to all who were displaced. As of 9:30 p.m. Stockman said the hotel had opened 10 rooms to house “about 20 to 25 people, including children.”
Though formal donations have not yet been organized, Stockman said donations of clothes and other items for children were welcome. He said the hotel was providing food, diapers, and clothes.
Bethanna Bennett with the Alaska Red Cross in Anchorage said late Thursday night that volunteers were on the scene in Nome, but information on their efforts was unavailable Thursday.
Photos and video: David Dodman, KNOM.