Housing residents wake to an overnight fire that killed 3 and destroyed 2 apartments
At the Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority Low Rent Unit apartment complex in Bethel, many residents woke up around 4 a.m. on Friday.
“I kept smelling something burning and I had guests at my place. I go, 'are you smoking cigarettes?' They said, 'we don't smoke cigarettes. And we smell that too.' So I went outside. I started seeing smoke coming out of the other apartment. And right away I call 911," said Galen Frank.
Frank lives in the unit next door to the two units that were destroyed. Frank and some neighbors escaped, but three people in one of the units were trapped inside the building and died. Five additional people were taken to the hospital with injuries. That’s according to Bethel Fire Chief Daron Solesbee.
Some residents reported seeing one man jump from the second story window of the burning unit. Most people evacuated from the nearby units when they smelled the smoke. In total, six units were impacted by the fire. In one of those apartments, next door neighbor resident Michaela Mike said that she got out in the nick of time.
“My mom yelled and saying there's a fire. There's a fire. And I just got up and gathered my kids and their blankets and grabbed whatever and ran out the door. And I saw the fire. If my mom wasn't there, I think I wouldn't have woke up,” said Mike.
Mike said that she had to leave all her infant’s necessities behind, but those items weren’t her main concern. Right now, she’s mourning the neighbors she knew and cared for who were lost in the fire
“They were really kind,” said Mike.
The president and CEO of AVCP Regional Housing Authority said that the organization was temporarily relocating all of the affected residents into unoccupied units on the other side of the larger 31 unit complex. He also said that the building where the fire occurred is likely at least three decades old.
Fire marshals from Anchorage are in Bethel investigating the cause of the fire and expect to have more details later this evening or tomorrow.
The family has released information about the victims on Facebook and GoFundMe. They are asking for donations to help with costs associated with the funeral.
The fire chief said that the fire burned from at least 4 a.m. to late morning on Friday, Aug. 12.
This is a developing story and has been updated with new information.