- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - A fast-moving fire gutted an apartment building early Wednesday, seriously burning one man and leaving more than 50 people homeless, fire officials said.

Several other people were treated for minor injuries after the fire in a two-story building that housed 18 apartments and a second-hand furniture store.

Firefighters dug for hours at the scene for any indication of unaccounted-for occupants of two apartments, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://is.gd/Wwyyaj ). Assistant Fire Chief Ernie Misewicz said earlier there was a possibility someone else might have been in the building.

One man was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment of his burns.

Firefighters used ladders to rescue several people from the burning building because they were not able to reach the hallway to escape, Misewicz said.

“They were either standing at windows or on balconies to apartments and we helped them down the ladder,” he said.

“I opened the door to big old flames,” resident Steven Mitchell, 56, told the News-Miner. “It was scary.”

Another resident, Bill Simmons, 50, said he was asleep but heard a big bang. Then, he said, “my wife came in yelling, ‘There’s a fire.’”

Several occupants were treated at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation, burns and cold-related injuries. The latter happened when residents rushed out of the building without shoes or socks when the temperature was about 15 degrees.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at University Community Presbyterian Church. About three dozen people were staying there, Misewicz said.

The building had apartments on the second story, a second-hand furniture store called The Tag Store and offices on the ground floor.

Fairbanks Fire Chief Warren Cummings said flames were leaping out of a second-floor apartment in the middle of the building when firefighters arrived.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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