Tok Lodge destroyed in fire

Firefighters arrive within 5 minutes, but lodge engulfed in flames

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2004

TOK - The Tok Lodge has been reduced to cinders.

The fire broke out sometime before 4:10 a.m. Tuesday and destroyed the lodge, which was more than 50 years old.

"There was just nothing that you could do other than just watch a big landmark go," said Tony Conrad, a former Tok fire chief who was at the scene.

The lodge, which was more than 50 years old and had been added on to over the years, had 11 rooms, a bar and a gift shop. Though it was a year-round operation, it had no guests when the fire broke out, said Dave Bergstrom, chief of the Tok Volunteer Fire Department.

Bud Johnson, who owned the lodge for 30 years before selling it five years ago, said it didn't take long to burn.

"It's totally gone. ... The only thing left standing is a couple of smokestacks," he said.

The fire was reported by the lodge bartender, who closed up earlier in the evening but returned to plow snow. He noticed a fire in the kitchen area in the center of the lodge and called 911 at 4:10 a.m.

The department responded within five minutes but the building was already fully in flames. Firefighters didn't enter or try to hose down the blaze.

"The wind was very strong, so we protected the buildings around it until it burned down to nothing," Bergstrom said.

The building, built of logs and covered with aluminum siding, burned to the ground in less than two hours. The two-story building collapsed into its basement.

The fire melted the siding on a three-room hotel building behind the lodge and also blew up a 250-gallon propane tank outside the lodge. Firefighters turned off other tanks but missed that one because it was covered in snow. Bergstrom said.

"We were sitting in the truck watching (the fire), and man, it shook our truck," he said.

The lodge is owned by Rory Warren who was out of state on Tuesday.

Bergstrom said the lodge was the home of the Alaska Highway town's first grocery store and a general part of local history.

"It's a very old building," he said. "This was one of the last of the big lodges (in Tok) that are standing."

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