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House fire brings power outage to Valley homes

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2001

About 1,200 homes in the Mendenhall Valley lost power early this morning as firefighters put out a house fire.

No one was injured in the blaze at 9407 Long Run Drive, but the house had about $150,000 in damage, firefighters said.

The alarm was called in a few minutes before midnight on Monday, said Lt. Beth Weldon of Glacier Fire Station. Thirty-one firefighters responded to the scene.

Incident commander Max Mielke, volunteer chief of the Glacier Fire Station, said the home's inhabitants, Otto and Verma Wittfield, had been alerted by neighbors that the house was on fire.

"There were two people inside but they came out on their own before we arrived," Weldon said. "The garage was fully involved and flames were up into the roof of the house."

When Mielke arrived, flames were shooting 30 to 40 feet in the air from a camper that was parked in the garage.

"We did an exterior attack on the fire," Mielke said. "But a power line attached to the garage burnt away and fell into a field, and we almost had some firefighters walk toward it. It was blocking one of our entry points."

In response, Alaska Electric Light and Power shut off the power station for the area, said company spokesman David Stone.

"The line was on the ground snapping and popping," making it a danger to firefighters, said Stone, who was at the scene. About 1,200 customers were without power for 40 minutes as the electric line was secured, he said.

It took firefighters less than 10 minutes to knock down the blaze, but they put out spot fires in the garage until almost 3 a.m.

The one-story house has an attached garage and a two-story addition at the back of the garage. Weldon and Mielke estimated there was $150,000 in damage to the structure, especially to the roof trusses. The garage was gutted. Most of the contents of the kitchen, living room and a bedroom were saved, and much of the two-story addition was intact, Mielke said.

"We saved a big chunk of the building, but the owners are going to need to replace a large part of the roof," Weldon said.

Mielke said he did not think foul play was involved. Fire Marshal Randy Waters is expected to investigate the fire today.

*****

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.



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