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The Akiuk Memorial School in Kasigluk will be ready to open for fall semester, according to superintendent

A fire destroyed three buildings on the Akiuk Memorial School campus in Kasigluk, Alaska on May 26, 2022. The debris is pictured here on May 27, 2022.
Kimberly Hankins
/
LKSD
A fire destroyed three buildings on the Akiuk Memorial School campus in Kasigluk, Alaska on May 26, 2022. The debris is pictured here on May 27, 2022.

The Akiuk Memorial School in Kasigluk will be ready to open for classes in the fall after multiple school facilities burned down last week, according to Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Kimberly Hankins. The school serves about 90 students.

The school district's most immediate concern is restoring power and water to the campus after the fire destroyed the school’s utility building. The fire also wiped out the old utility building, which was vacant, and the housing used for the school principal.

Hankins said that she hopes the school district will be able to restore power in the coming days and is assessing how to restore water.

“Those are the critical elements that need to be in place for us to open the school in the fall,” Hankins said.

No summer school activities were planned, so the fire is not causing any disruptions for the summer term.

With all the buildings on the school campus clustered closely together, Hankins said that it’s remarkable that the school appears unscathed.

“Considering how large the fire was, it’s just absolutely incredible that the school is intact, and that we’re just really fortunate,” she said.

The fire occurred on May 26. Hankins visited the site the next day. “There was a lot of charred debris. Fire hoses were strewn across the ground,” she described.

While at Akiuk, Hankins met with several of the volunteers who had quickly responded to contain the fire. She learned how they worked together to keep the flames from spreading to the school and the other teacher housing.

“I have gratitude for all the folks from Akiuk, Akula, Nunapitchuk, and Atmautluak who assisted with the fire response. I feel grateful to the [Alaska] Division of Forestry for sending the tankers and personnel, and for our staff here at the district office from plant facilities for their quick response and notifying state agencies, and really reaching out to alert state agencies of the fire,” Hankins said.

Inside the school, Hankins said that she could strongly smell smoke in the kitchen and gym. Both are near the buildings that burned. Other than minor smoke damage, Hankins said that the school appears untouched, but further investigation could uncover deeper issues.

A fire inspector with the Alaska State Troopers inspected the campus the day of the fire. A fire investigator with the school district’s insurance company will travel to the campus next week. The district plans to use the insurance money to pay for damages and cleanup. The cause of the fire has not been released.

The cleanup timeline for the destroyed buildings is still unknown. Hankins said that part of that will depend on whether investigators determined of the debris contains contaminants, such as asbestos, that would require special attention.

Anna Rose MacArthur is the KYUK News Director. She has worked at KYUK since 2015 and previously worked at KNOM in Nome, Alaska.
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