Victims of trailer fire lodged at St. Vincent de Paul

Posted: Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Residents of a trailer that went up in flames early Thursday morning are doing their best to cope with the sudden loss of almost everything they owned. But there are a few bright spots: They found a few unexpected treasures while sifting through the debris of their home in the days after the fire, and they have had a place to stay, moving into St. Vincent de Paul shelter on Tuesday.

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

Southeast District American Red Cross of Alaska lodged the residents, Amy and Daniel Hurtado and their daughter, Shaylee, 6, as well as Joseph Tassell, who lived in another part of the trailer, at the Super 8 in Juneau through Tuesday morning. They also provided them with money for clothes.

At about 2 a.m. Thursday, a fire engulfed the Sprucewood Park trailer on Stephen Richards Memorial Drive. No injuries were reported. The residence was split into two homes. Tassell could not be reached for comment on this story.

The Hurtados said they’re grateful for the help they’ve received from organizations

 and individuals, such as a group of Wal-Mart employees that pooled together to donate some money and a neighbor that gave Shaylee a stuffed bear.

“Nothing’s harder than picking your life up out of the dirt,” said Daniel Hurtado, who returned to the trailer to sift through the ashes. “I can’t believe in the span of a couple of hours, you can go from having everything to nothing.”

They did not have renter’s insurance.

On the bright side, however, Hurtado found his daughter’s baby book while searching through the trailer’s remains, and it was salvageable — as was, surprisingly, the couple’s camera. And they were still able to pick up a SpongeBob SquarePants cake Amy Hurtado had ordered and paid for a month in advance for Shaylee’s birthday.

Shaylee turned 6 on Friday.

The night of the fire, a friend was staying with them and, while walking past the bathroom around 2 a.m., saw a light flickering. He looked and saw flames coming through the window, Amy Hurtado said.

He started screaming, and then “instinct hit without thinking,” she said.

Daniel Hurtado grabbed his wife and daughter and they ran out of the trailer, then ran to tell Tassell and their neighbors what was going on.

The family lost almost everything in the fire, including Shaylee’s birthday presents, their clothes, a van they couldn’t move because the keys were inside the trailer, Daniel Hurtado’s carpentry tools, medication, Amy Hurtado’s dentures and a month’s worth of rent, which they had withdrawn to pay in cash the next day. They are also almost certain their pet cat perished in the fire.

Fire Marshal Dan Jager said Capital City Fire and Rescue and the Juneau Police Department are working together to investigate the cause.

The couple said they are thankful they were all able to escape unharmed.

“Not even two minutes after we got out of the trailer, it went up in smoke,” Amy Hurtado said. “If we would have been two seconds later than what we were, I would be planning a funeral on my daughter’s birthday. That’s how fast it went.”

“I would rather have my wife and daughter than stuff,” Daniel Hurtado said. “The fact that anything survived is just a bonus ... (but) it’s hard to figure out how to pick your family up from nothing.”

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or

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