A Thursday fire severely damaged the Fritz Creek General Store, a Southern Kenai Peninsula landmark and the center of the community of Fritz Creek east of Homer on East End Road.
Kachemak Emergency Services and the Homer Volunteer Fire Department responded to the structure fire of the historic log building early in the morning. The building includes a grocery store, a cafe, a liquor store, a gas station and the Fritz Creek Post Office.
The building’s structure is still standing, but the interior has suffered heavy fire damage, said KESA Chief Bob Cicciarella.
“I would not say that there’s much that is going to be salvageable,” he said.
The fire was reported by a passerby at approximately 4 a.m., according to Cicciarella. At 4:02 a.m., HVFD was auto aided to the KESA service area, in which the general store is located, to assist Kachemak Emergency Services, according to a July 6 post on the HVFD Facebook page.
“HVFD responded with Tanker 2, two Firefighters, and two Fire Chiefs. Upon arrival Tanker 2 noted heavy smoke and fire coming from the structure and became the water supply for KESA Ladder 1,” HVFD posted on Facebook.
KESA also called Western Emergency Services for mutual aid, according to Cicciarella. WES provided an additional tanker and relief to HVFD and KESA crews while the fire was being extinguished.
Cicciarella said Thursday afternoon that the fire crews achieved knockdown, or control of the fire to a point where it was no longer progressing, about 38 minutes after arriving on scene. Personnel remained on scene for six hours, until the fire was completely put out around 10 a.m., and they were released by KESA command, according to HVFD’s Facebook post.
“When we arrived and made our initial attack, there was fire in the ceiling (and) attic space from one end of the building to the other. So there was a lot of heat and it was going pretty good on our arrival,” he said. “The main structure is still standing. The part where the liquor store was is probably the least damaged, but there’s still heavy heat and soot damage on that end. But the rest of it, the interior is heavily damaged.”
The Fritz Creek store’s older construction posed some challenges to responding firefighters, according to Cicciarella.
“We had a real stubborn area of the fire after knockdown that was just smoldering in the roof area, (which) was made up of … tongue-and-groove boards and tin,” he said. “Sometimes the fire gets up inside there, and we had to do a lot of prying apart of the tin and so forth, so that’s why it took us quite awhile on scene and (we) needed some of that extra help to get the fire completely out.”
The building was unoccupied when the fire began, and no injuries from the public or responding firefighters have been reported.
An investigation is currently underway as to the cause of the fire. An investigator with the Alaska State Fire Marshal’s office headed to the scene Thursday morning, Anchorage Daily News reported on July 6.
Cicciarella noted that the fire “does not appear to be suspicious at this time.”
Jan Ingram, post mistress at the Fritz Creek post office located inside the general store, provided an update that incoming mail will be available to residents through a designated pickup line at the Homer Post Office.
“Thank you for your understanding and working with us through this difficult situation,” Ingram wrote. “The store owners are working through the details of the fire and more will be determined later regarding mail and packages damaged in the fire.”