'I Wasn’t Homeless Anymore, And Now That’s A Different Story,' Says Tenant Of Bethel Trailer Fire

Oct 2, 2019

Jeremy Lee, 31, stands before the burning trailer where he rented a room behind Front Street Cafe in Bethel. Oct. 2, 2019.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

Jeremy Lee is just hoping he has a warm place to sleep tonight. On Wednesday, Oct. 2, white smoke rose from the trailer where he'd been renting a room since April. Between him and the smoke stretched a line of emergency vehicles with police officers in blue uniforms and firefighters in yellow turnouts moving between them.

“We have two fire trucks, two water city trucks, ambulance out here," Lee described. "They’re just trying to get the fire contained right now.”

The fire started around 4 p.m. behind Front Street Cafe, and it's the second house fire in Bethel in two days. 

“It’s just a bummer," Lee said. "Because I had my own place close to work, finally got me on my feet. I wasn’t homeless anymore, and now that’s a different story.”

Lee is 31 years old and moved to Bethel from Nunapitchuk in October of last year. He lived with family for a while, but it wasn’t a good situation. Once the Bethel Winter House opened in December, he stayed there every night until it closed.

“I was happy," he remembered. "I finally had my own place. I wasn’t worried about where to stay every night, and I’m back to square one now, but I’m just happy that everyone is okay, safe, nobody died. That’s the most important thing.”

Lee described the burning trailer as a “bunk house,” saying it had five bedrooms with five tenants and a shared bathroom.

“No kitchen," Lee said. "I had my own little toaster oven and minifridge. That’s how I lived.”

He said that the landlord is the owner of Front Street Cafe, and most of the tenants are restaurant employees. Lee said that the fire started Wednesday afternoon. He works next door at Swanson’s Grocery, and he’d come home just prior on a break to get a Cup of Noodles.

“And we had an intoxicated female on our porch, and I kicked her out," he recounted. "I told her that she had to leave or I would call the police to get her removed from here, because she was raising ruckus at our place, just starting trouble with all of us.”

He said that the woman used to work at the restaurant and had caused problems before. He got his noodles and went back to work. He'd just clocked in when he got the news.

“Somebody at work told me, 'The place is on fire over there.’ So I clocked out and ran over here. And sure enough, our place is burning,” he said.

The police, fire department, and EMS arrived. He saw an officer leading the intoxicated woman away in handcuffs. 

Lee said that his situation is nothing to be sorry about.

"Because it’s just a building," he explained. "Yeah, it’s bad. It’s bad because now I have to find another place to rent from to live. That’s about it. Everything is replaceable."

Lee said that all his belongings are now on his back: a gray North Face sweatshirt, a baseball hat, and a pair of blue jeans. He doesn't know where he is going to stay come nightfall.

"Because it’s cold out now, and all my coats and stuff burned," he said. "So I have to figure out how I’m going to stay warm and where to sleep for a little while.”

Lee says that he’s also going to have to figure out where he can find a guitar. Lee plays live music most Friday mornings on “Coffee@KYUK" and wants to continue waking up the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta with his tunes.