The flames were out at the Mountain View Apartments before all the residents left.
When the alarm went off at 2:26 p.m. Thursday, smoke was pouring from the top floor of the senior apartments, at Egan Drive and 12th Street. Within 15 minutes, the fire in a section of the building being renovated was extinguished, said Jim Carroll, chief of the Juneau Volunteer Fire District.
As firefighters made sure the embers were thoroughly doused, residents helped each other across the street in wheelchairs and walkers. About 45 elementary school children watched from the windows of the Harborview Elementary School RALLY program.
``There were a lot of kids who were watching and some of them were crying,'' said Leah Ogoy, site manager for RALLY, a before- and after-school child-care program. ``They all wanted to talk about it.''
Ogoy and school principal Bob Dye invited the residents into the Harborview gym. About 20 evacuated residents, many in slippers and robes, snacked on cheese, crackers and coffee while they waited for the all-clear sign. One woman brought her cat, wearing a leash and rhinestone collar.
``We sure appreciate this place to get in out of the cold,'' said Ruth Kenworthy, as a friend warmed her hands chilled by the wait outside.
Like many of the senior apartment complex residents, Kenworthy hesitated to leave the building when the alarm first went off. The alarm goes off so frequently many residents just ignore it.
``Usually it's somebody cooking and sets the alarm off,'' Kenworthy said. ``It's once a week and they're loud.''
With so many residents, some of them forgetful, the alarm is bound to go off frequently, said Amy Hiley, the area coordinator for Alaska Housing Finance Corp., which runs the apartments.
The alarm needs to be loud to rouse some of the hard-of-hearing senior citizens, she said. But she's also noted the problem of residents ignoring the alarms.
``We have repeatedly tried to educate people that they need to come out,'' Hiley said. ``Out of something like today, hopefully we can use that to educate people that it's not always false alarms.''
Though this alarm was for a real fire, the residents were far from danger. The fire occurred in a section of the building being renovated, an area separated from occupied apartments by a wall and heavy fire doors.
The fire started in wall timbers on the fourth floor, where a plumber had been soldering pipes together, said Fire Marshal Randy Waters. It caused about $3,000 to $5,000 in damage, mostly from the smoke.
The construction work is the first of a three-phase project, which will include putting smoke gaskets around all the doors, so residents will be able to safely stay in their rooms when there is a fire in another part of the building, Hiley said.
The senior citizens were able to return to their rooms within an hour. They were welcomed home with cards the RALLY students had drawn.