Fire victims receive financial assistance

Donations pour in locally, statewide, nationally

(This article has been changed to reflect the correct address for the Red Cross. The address given to the Empire earlier was incorrect.)


Victims of the Gastineau Apartments fire are receiving financial assistance from the American Red Cross of Alaska.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, a total of $5,865 has been given to 11 residents of the apartments, said Roger Rettig, the Red Cross Disaster Services Specialist for Southeast Alaska.

The top floor of the downtown commercial-apartment building caught fire Monday evening and burned for about nine hours.

No casualties were reported, but the blaze displaced nearly 50 residents of the apartments. Fire chief Richard Etheridge said Wednesday the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The apartment residents qualified for money from the Alaska Disaster Relief Fund, according to Laura Spano, a development specialist for the Red Cross based in Anchorage.

The Alaska Disaster Relief Fund is funded by people who donate to the Red Cross. It is then doled out to people affected by disasters, such as house fires or floods.

“It’s just kind of a given,” Spano said in a phone interview. “Anytime that there’s a disaster that we respond to — Red Cross responds to every house fire where assistance is needed throughout the state — and so anytime somebody is in need of items, that is what the Alaska Disaster Relief Fund is for.”

The money is placed on a debit card given to victims, called a Client Assistance Card, or CAC for short. It allows victims to purchase items as they see fit, based on their individual needs.

To determine the amount of funds to give to victims, the Red Cross uses either a nationwide standard or a case-by-case assessment.

Rettig says they used a case-by-case basis in this case. Volunteers registered displaced residents and confirmed their residency status through the building’s owner at Centennial Hall, where an emergency shelter and services operation was in place Monday through Wednesday.

Volunteers then determined how much money each person needed based on a variety of factors, such as family size, ages of children and food and shelter needs.

About 48 people registered as a displaced resident of the Gastineau Apartments by the end of Wednesday, said Rettig.

Many of the building’s occupants who resided at the Gastineau Apartments used Section 8 housing vouchers, which subsidizes low-income families so they can afford housing in the private market.

James Barrett, the owner of the Gastineau Apartments, said in an interview Wednesday that at one point the whole apartment complex was Section 8 housing. It was more evenly split in recent years, and a less than half of the occupants used the vouchers at the time of the fire, Barrett said.

Donations have also been pouring in from the community, as well as out-of-state, said Spano. It was too early to determine the exact amount, she said, noting all those finances are handled out of the Anchorage office.

People in Juneau, Auke Bay and Douglas have all donated money, as well as people in Alaskan cities as far north as Kotzebue, Spano said.

Monetary donations have also flowed in from the Lower 48, including Michigan. Donations also came from the U.S. territory of Guam.

Spano said, “When people hear of this, especially if they have ties to Alaska or to Juneau, and they hear of large disasters such as this they reach out and really want to help support that community.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at




If you’re a resident of the Gastineau Apartments seeking assistance, call the local Red Cross office at 463-5713, or stop by 3225 Hospital Drive, Unit 202.

If you wish to donate, monetary donations can still be dropped off or mailed to 3225 Hospital Drive, Juneau, Alaska, 99801. Donations must contain the note: Gastineau Apartments Fire.


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