Family escapes burning mobile home unharmed

Posted: Friday, July 02, 2010

Several adults and a six-year-old girl escaped unharmed from a fire that gutted their mobile home early Thursday morning.

Mary Catharine Martin / Juneau Empire
Mary Catharine Martin / Juneau Empire

The fire at unit 87 in Sprucewood Park, 9951 Stephen Richards Memorial Drive, started around 2:30 a.m. and lasted about an hour and a half, said Capital City Fire and Rescue Fire Marshal Dan Jager.

"We were actively fighting it for an hour and a half before it was under control," he said. "We spent time taking care of all the hot spots."

The unit on the left-hand side didn't sustain any damage, he said, but the one on the right had some melted vinyl siding and a cracked window.

Neighbor Martin Hernandez, who lives to the left, said someone knocked on his door around 2:30 a.m. and told him about the fire, which is when he looked out the window and saw it. He called 911, but by that time emergency responders were already there, he said.

Jager said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Investigators have not yet ruled out arson.

"Hopefully in the next couple of days we'll find out some more information through interviews, and find out what the cause was," he said.

Unit owner Vera Lew said the tenants of the unit, which was divided into two residences, were Amy, Daniel and Shalee Hurtado, who had been living there since last July, as well as long-term tenant Joseph Tassell.

Lew said Amy Hurtado told her the fire started outside Shalee's bedroom on the back porch.

Lew also said Shalee is turning seven years old today.

American Red Cross of Alaska Southeast Development Director Caitlyn McLaughlin said Red Cross disaster volunteer Ron King went out Wednesday morning to help the families, which the Red Cross has lodged at the Super 8 Motel. The agency is currently helping out with shelter, food and clothing, and McLaughlin said it may provide more help once the fire's impact is fully determined.

Lew, who said she had been planning to get, but did not yet have, property insurance, said she lost around $50,000 in the fire.

Lew owns the unit. Coogan General LLC, which owns the Sprucewood Park, owns the lot on which the unit stands.

The Hurtados and Tassell did not return a message left to either room at the motel Thursday afternoon.

Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or

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