Company does some juggling after Princess lodge fire

Posted: Friday, March 23, 2007

FAIRBANKS - A company catering to visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve is having to juggle housing arrangements for some of its summer guests following a fire that destroyed an 11-room unit at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.

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The damaged rooms were a fraction of the units offered at the resort, which has 651 rooms and is the largest hotel complex near the national park. The tour season begins in two months, and the resort, located a mile from the entrance to the park, is already booked full on some days this summer, said Darren Nolan, a Princess Tours vice president in Seattle.

"There are other rooms in the area," said Nolan, who oversees hotel operations and development. "We'll be in contact with the other hoteliers on days where we need to put people in other rooms."

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but it is thought to have been started by accident, said Tom DePeter, deputy state fire marshal. The 15-year-old building was closed for the winter and undergoing renovations.

The fire last Friday appears to have started in the crawl space of the burned building, DePeter said. The Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department judged the loss at $500,000.

The fire department learned of the fire after a caretaker called 911 about 3:30 a.m.

"When we arrived, the entire building was up in flames," Tri-Valley Chief Sean Fielding said.

Firefighters began working to protect surrounding buildings. They removed a wooden deck that connected the burning building to two other structures.

"We used chain saws and stuff to cut it away, break it away," Fielding said.

Firefighters also doused some nearby trees with water and kept some neighboring propane tanks cool.

A fire at the resort 11 years ago claimed 60 percent of its rooms, a lobby, a dining room and a gift shop. That fire started near two furnaces and caused an estimated $25 million in damage.

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