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3 dead following Bethel house fire

A Bethel Fire Department vehicle outside 1019 Ridgecrest Dr. on June 14, 2024.
Evan Erickson
A Bethel Fire Department vehicle outside 1019 Ridgecrest Dr. on June 14, 2024.

Three people have died after a house fire in Bethel last Friday (June 14).

Bethel’s Acting Police Chief Christopher Wigner said Doreen Black of Bethel, Gregory Alfred of Kwethluk, and Nastasia Nick of Nunapitchuk died over the weekend after being medevaced out of the community for treatment.

“They were life-flighted out to Anchorage, and then they had two of the victims transported out to Seattle,” Wigner said Monday afternoon. “At this time, we have received information that all three have passed away.”

Wigner said Bethel’s Fire Department and police initially responded to a report of a house fire at 1019 Ridgecrest Dr. at about 2:15 p.m. on Friday (June 14).

When they arrived five minutes later, Wigner said first responders saw smoke coming from the home. According to the incident report, firefighters went inside and found Black, Alfred and Nick unconscious and severely burned. An ambulance and a Bethel Police vehicle took the three to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation hospital where they were listed in critical condition.

It’s not clear who owns the building that caught fire.

Wigner said local first responders spent the weekend trying to figure out what caused the fire. He said the state fire marshal’s office traveled to Bethel on Saturday (June 15) to help.

“It appears that the fire was started accidentally, possibly by a cigarette [that] started a fire on the couch and spread to part of the residence,” Wigner said.

Department of Public Safety spokesperson Tim DeSpain wrote in an email that fire investigators found an additional fire started under a trash bag in the arctic entry of the house, where they also found cigarette butts.

As of Tuesday morning (June 18), the state investigation into the fire was ongoing, although DeSpain wrote that the fire was “not suspicious.”

This is a breaking news story and may be updated with additional information.

Updated: June 18, 2024 at 11:15 AM AKDT
This article has been updated with additional information from the Alaska Department of Public Safety and the Bethel Police Department.
Updated: June 17, 2024 at 5:42 PM AKDT
This article has an updated headline.
Sage Smiley is KYUK's news director.