In the case of a Friday afternoon house fire in the Mendenhall Valley, a small dog was the first responder.
As a mother and her daughter were asleep in the house on Kimberly Street just off Mendenhall Loop Road, their dog woke them up with its barking, Capital City Fire/Rescue Fire Marshal Dan Jager said at the scene. The mother and daughter woke up to find smoke coming from their back deck, Jager said.
“They found a small fire on the back deck,” Jager said. “They were able to try and put out the fire but it got too big too fast.”
They called 911 and got safely out of the house, Jager said, and no pets were harmed either. The flames spread through the home, though, as the roof was charred, windows were broken and the garage door was badly burned. Jager was just starting his investigation on the scene, and didn’t speculate as to what the cause might have been.
The fire, which began just prior to 3:30 p.m. Friday, also caused a nearby propane tank to explode, Jager said, but fortunately nobody was nearby. CCFR personnel were able to knock the fire down in five or 10 minutes, Jager said, but smoke was still flowing out of the house for a while afterward and leaving a haze over the neighborhood. Crews were going through the home until about 4:45 p.m., making sure the fire would not re-ignite.
In a statement Saturday morning, Jager said the cause was still undetermined, but doesn’t appear to be suspicious. This comes after two fires in the Valley earlier this month that Jager has said do appear suspicious, but he said in his statement Saturday that the Kimberly Street fire does not appear to be connected to those ones.
The fire spread so quickly, Jager said, because of the propane tank venting and a window that was open that allowed flames inside. The house is insured, Jager said, and sustained heavy damage especially on the first floor near the garage. As the department continues its investigation, people are asked to call the Fire Marshal’s Office at 586-0260.
It was a busy day for the department, as the scanner was going nonstop as Assistant Chief Tod Chambers directed crews into the house on Kimberly Street.
“We had four or five other calls happening at the same time as this, all over,” Jager said, “from North Douglas all the way out here. It was a little crazy, and trying to get enough personnel here was the biggest challenge.”
Fire department employees have made it clear in recent months that they’re in need of more staffing. The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, with the help of an outside study by research firm Fitch & Associates, is currently examining ways to increase staffing. The topic is on the agenda for Monday night’s Assembly meeting.
Even CCFR Chief Rich Etheridge was going out on medical calls to help out during the busy afternoon, Jager said, which was unusual.
“It was all hands on deck, to be honest,” Jager said. “Everybody who was available was going to a call somewhere, not just this fire.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.