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Home destroyed in Tuntutuliak fire

A fire in Tuntutuliak on Oct. 11 destroyed one home.

A house burned down in a fire in Tuntutuliak on Oct. 11.

Carl Andrew manages Tuntatuliak’s power plant.

“Looking at it, it’s a total loss,” Carl Andrew said.

He was checking his blackfish trap when he saw the smoke. He took off his waders and ran toward it.

Carl said that the first thing he did was run to the power plant to turn off power for the whole community; the fire was starting to burn through the rubber on a power line above the home. Carl said that they were able to safely take down that line. No one was injured in the fire.

Seventy-four-year-old Henry Lupie was at home with his daughter when they saw the smoke. They hurried to the burning building with a 5 gallon bucket.

He said that the family living there had recently put a significant addition on the house.

It was a large, multi-generational family that lived in the house, which Lupie said was like a new building with the addition. This isn’t the first time that the family has lost a house to a fire. Last time they were out of town when their house burned down, Lupie said.

“It was not just the family, but the whole community was traumatized because it was practically a new building. And the family lost a lot of belongings, some of them sentimental,” Lupie said.

Tuntutuliak Tribal Administrator Abe Andrew was in the village’s monthly council meeting when the fire broke out.

The council abruptly ended the meeting so that community leaders could help fight the fire. Tuntutuliak doesn’t currently have an organized volunteer fire department.

Abe brought the village’s only available water pump with him. He said that dozens of people, possibly around a hundred people, came out to help. They pumped water out of a pond about 100 feet away and used a bucket brigade to throw water onto the burning house.

Andrew, the power plant manager, said that the fire last night showed the need for more fire-fighting equipment in Tuntutuliak.

“When these things happen it affects the whole community. Knowing these people, they lost almost everything,” Andrew said.

Andrew said that the community used to have a van outfitted with firefighting equipment. That vehicle was destroyed several years ago in a separate fire when the workshop where it was stored burned down.

Tribal administrator Abe Andrew said that this time around, some of Tuntutuliak’s equipment wasn’t ready when the fire started. That includes another pump that didn’t have fuel. Abe said that next time a fire breaks out, that equipment will be ready to go.

He said that the community is more prepared for fires than it used to be.

“In the past, a couple of homes burned down to the ground. But this time we had more equipment,” Abe said.

Abe said that the pump they have now is very similar to the pump that the village lost in the workshop fire several years ago.

Abe said that the community will likely pool resources to help the family. Details on how people outside of Tuntutuliak can help are still being worked out.

Nina was a temporary news reporter at KYUK. She comes to Bethel from NPR, where she's a producer at Morning Edition.
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