Old Swanson’s Apartment Building Torn Down After Fire Continues For Second Day

Oct 6, 2020

Bethel firefighter Toby Monroe sprays down an apartment building that caught fire on Monday, Oct. 5 and was torn down the next day. Oct. 6, 2020 in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

The Old Swanson’s Apartment Building in Bethel lies in rubble. The city tore the building down on Oct. 6 after the structure continued burning for its second day, and after the fire had spread next door to the Old Swanson’s Furniture Store.

The fire started the morning of Oct. 5. Throughout that day, Bethel firefighters hosed down the flames. During the night, firefighters monitored the building.

“There was a couple rekindles reported, so we had the engine come back out here and put out the hot spots,” Acting Fire Chief Darren Solsebee said.

Just before 9 a.m. on Oct. 6, the fire rekindled.

“And it was fairly large and started creeping into the Quonset hut, the Old Swanson’s Furniture Store,” Solsebee said.

Fire engines and city water trucks rushed to the scene and suppressed the flames. Both buildings continued smoking thoughout the morning. Around 11:30 a.m., using an excavator, the Bethel Public Works Department began tearing down the remains of the smoldering apartment building. Solsebee said that the structure had become too unstable to safely enter. By 1 p.m., the building lay in a heap of splintered wood and twisted metal. Firefighters sprayed down remaining hot spots that could reignite. The Old Swanson’s Furniture Store remains standing.

Solsebee said that his crew will check the rubble for any evidence that could point to the cause of the fire. The Bethel Police Department is investigating the cause and following leads. Solsebee thanked the Bethel Public Works Department and volunteer firefighters for their help in fighting the fire, and he thanked the volunteers who brought the crew food after a long day on the job.

“Really nice bean soup and bread, and it was really good, and I appreciate that,” Solsebee said.