Crews were thawing the portopotties to be able to evacuate them when a fuel-fired space heater started the temporary building on fire. The call to Fire Department went out at 4:57 p.m and firefighters were on site by 5:00 p.m. Bill Howell is Bethel’s fire captain.
“And in that time period it had more than destroyed 75% of that temporary building and burned the entirely of the outside of both of those tanks, said Howell.
Howell says there were early reports that fuel tanks were on fire, but that ended up being false, there was no fuel burned in the fire. There was however a visible plume of black smoke. That was from the coating on external water and sewer tanks.
“There were 3 to 4 inches of polyurethane spray foam on them. So that black smoke you saw was exactly that, the foam burning,” said Howell.
Crews were able to contain the fire and prevent any damage to the main building.
The Bethel Native Corporation is leading the Kipusvik project. President and CEO Ana Hoffman says there will be no delays in construction and the store and movie theater are on track for a July opening. She says the fresh water and greywater tanks are intact and are reparable, despite the burnt insulation.
The fast response by fire crews included an engine, a tanker, and two ambulances, plus three city water trucks. Howell is confident that they know the source of the blaze.
“With the reports of workers on site and some of the the physical evidence left behind of the heater, we were able to piece together that that’s probably or most likely what had happened,” said Howell.
Hoffman says she’s thankful for the very fast response by fire crews and that no one was hurt. The Kipusvik project is expecting things like movie seats and food court supplies to arrive on the barge in June. They’ll then put the final touches on before opening in July.