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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Firefighters battle a blaze at the Gastineau Apartments on Monday in downtown Juneau.

Fire consumes downtown Gastineau Apartments

Blaze reportedly visible from Douglas

Posted: November 5, 2012 - 6:08pm  |  Updated: November 6, 2012 - 12:06am
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View up Franklin Street in downtown Juneau as Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel work on a fire at the Gastineau Apartments at the corner of Franklin and Front Street on Monday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
View up Franklin Street in downtown Juneau as Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel work on a fire at the Gastineau Apartments at the corner of Franklin and Front Street on Monday.

Firefighters continued at presstime to mop up a major fire that set the top of Gastineau Apartments ablaze late Monday in downtown Juneau.

It was at first feared the neighboring Elks Lodge building might also be lost. That building showed no signs of outward damage at 7:30 p.m.

Earlier in the evening, at 6 p.m., the apartment building located at 127 South Franklin Street was invisible behind a grey wall of smoke.

The apartment building had been evacuated 45 minutes earlier and residents were asked to disperse due to the hazard of smoke inhalation. At 6:15 p.m. a Juneau police officer told an assembled group of onlookers that all residents had gotten out of the building.

Two fire department ladder trucks were parked on Franklin Street and thick yellow fire hoses lay serpentine between the sidewalks. Onlookers watched from the sidewalks and corners of Second Street, Franklin and Gold Street. Many covered their noses and mouths as they talked on cell phones or shot pictures and videos.

Gold Street was blocked off with tape at First Street with a fire truck and crew working within.

From Second Street, flames could be seen above the roof and through a window of the apartment building. Smoke rose above the fire and across the roof of the Baranof Hotel. Smoke also streamed down the streets in downtown Juneau. With the winds out of the south, the smell of smoke could be detected as far away as Aurora Harbor.

John Farris, from Austin Texas, was staying at the Baranof Hotel in a middle floor. He said he smelled smoke sometime after 5 p.m. At first he thought it was someone burning something outside so he stuck a wet towel under his door. About a half hour later he heard alarms “and door slamming shut,” Farris said. At this point he evacuated the hotel and moved back to Second Street to watch.

Courtney Wilkins and Chris McFadyen live above Sprazzo Italian restaurant across the street from Gastineau Apartments. Wilkins said she was concerned to get home to her dog, Roxy, before her home smoke alarms went off.

At approximately 6:20 p.m. the power went out downtown. Visibility was very low and people were taking care getting around. Power was restored downtown shortly after 9 p.m. to all buildings except those adjacent to the fire scene.

Bartlett Regional Hospital spokesman Jim Strader did not have specific details about injuries from the fire.

“I left at 8:15 (p.m.). At that time ED told me there were only handful of patients with minor injuries. No further info was available on exact number or specific conditions. I’ve had no further updates and do not expect more until tomorrow,” Strader wrote in a text message.

Guy Hayes of the Alaska Army National Guard said five guardsmen were deployed to secure the perimeter evacuated by emergency officials.

There is no report yet as to the cause of the blaze.

Centennial Hall has been set up as a shelter for hotel guests and displaced residents.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

Resources and Information: 

• Donate to the American Red Cross of Alaska — Currently, the best way to assist those displaced or in need as a result of the fire at Gastineau Apartments is in the form of monetary donations. Drop off or mail a check or cash to the following address: 3225 Hospital Drive, Juneau AK 99801. (Donations must contain the note: Gasineau Apartment Fire.)

Shelter at Centennial Hall: 586-0359. 

Free showers are being offered for those in need at the JRC / Downtown Alaska Club. Phone: 586-5773.

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