Fire consumes family's Basin Road home

No injuries reported in Monday morning blaze

Posted: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Ryan Stanley said he felt numb after watching his house on Basin Road burn down early Monday morning.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"It's been pretty crazy," he said Monday afternoon. "It's hard to think straight."

Stanley said he was getting ready to go to bed around 1 a.m. Monday when he thought he heard his cat scratching something.

"I got back out of bed and went out to my living room and smelled smoke," he said.

Stanley went to his 3-year-old daughter's room and saw an orange glow coming from outside her window.

"I looked out the window and saw there was definitely a fire in the next door neighbors' basement," he said.

After waking his family, Stanley went next door and pounded on the neighbors' door and called 911 at about 1:08 a.m. No injuries were reported.

"I busted our hose out and tried to spray - futilely," he said.

Fire Marshal Dan Jager said a fire started around 1 a.m. in the basement of an apartment-style dwelling at 811 Basin Road. The fire burned in one room staying contained by Sheetrock walls before it breached a side window and caught a wall of Stanley's home on fire.

"That being really dry and easily burnable, from there it carried it up to the attic space where there was some ventilation openings and it got into the attic space from there," Jager said.

The fire department declared Stanley's home at 817 Basin Road a total loss. The apartment building had moderate damage, mostly contained in the basement.

"Both of these structures were less than 5 feet apart so the radiant heat from the apartment building, it's like having direct flame contact," Jager said. "That definitely made a difference. Had there been more of a separation between the two I think we would have had a much different outcome."

Capital City Fire and Rescue located where the fire started but is still working to figure out how, Jager said.

"We still haven't eliminated the possibility of a suspicious or intentionally set fire, so we're still gonna work on this throughout the week and hopefully come up some more information to release," he said.

Anybody with information of suspicious activity in the area or saw anything unusual is encouraged to call the fire department at 586-5322.

Jager said the last fire of this magnitude took place July 4 when a two-story family home burned down on Meadow Lane in the Mendenhall Valley.

Stanley said he, his wife and daughter spent Monday trying to get their life in order after losing virtually everything.

"After I called 911, I went inside and grabbed my wife's jewelry box and I have an external hard drive that has all our family photos on it," he said, adding that he was also able to salvage a laptop computer and a couple of guitars.

"I made two or three trips and I could have made quite a few more, but (the police) were pressuring me not to, even though the fire hadn't spread to it but the house was getting smoky," he said.

Stanley said the family had lived in the house for about seven years and has owned it for about four. They paid nearly $180,000. They had it insured at $170,000 when they bought it, but had put a new roof on, a new furnace in, new flooring and a new kitchen. The city's last assessment of the nearly 2,000-square-foot house was $213,900.

"We never got around to upping the insurance amount, so we're just dealing with the reality of what the hell we're going to do and how we're going to make up what's looking like about a $60,000 difference of what insurance wants and what the house is worth," Stanley said.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support since the fire consumed the home and the family's possessions, he said.

"We've actually had too much help that we're not prepared for," Stanley said. "We're just trying to get some family time but also make sure we have our ducks in a row so we don't do things the wrong way."

An account has been set up in the family's name with Alaska USA for those interested in making donations.

Stanley has some advice for people that have been or are planning on doing home improvement projects.

"Hopefully people that are doing a lot of work on their house remember to get their insurance updated," he said. "That's kind of our big problem. We're just hoping it will all work out."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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