An electrical shortage sparked a small fire inside the walls of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s headquarters at 110 North Willow Street in Kenai on Wednesday.
With the Kenai Fire Department one block away, firefighters arrived almost immediately after the call came in around noon. Kenai Fire Chief Jeff Tucker said when crews arrived the building had already been evacuated and no injuries were reported.
The source of the fire is believed to be an exterior outlet that shorted out on the Granite Point Street side of the building, Tucker said.
As smoke billowed out of the tribal courtroom window, firefighters worked to discover the origin of the fire. They removed siding and cut into the exterior of the building to get to the electrical wiring inside the wall where smoke was discovered.
“Anytime we respond to a fire, to make sure it is out we check in the wall to look for radiant heat,” Tucker said. “We don’t want to leave an ember burning that could cause the fire to restart.”
The fire was controlled after 10 minutes and crews remained on scene for an hour. Firefighters covered a small hole on the outside of the building used for ventilation. Tucker said if the fire had occurred on a weekend when nobody would be in the building to notice the smoke, the damage could have been devastating.
“The biggest thing for us is earlier notification,” he said. “Flames spread rapidly and we were able to take care of it before it could get out of hand.”
Kenaitze Indian Tribe communications specialist M. Scott Moon said the fire was discovered after a person in the building smelled smoke.
“(The employee) went to look for the source of the smell, saw smoke in the tribal court area and we initiated our emergency evacuation plan,” Moon said. “We have a detailed response plan to any situation. Our plan is to get people out first and figure out what’s going on.”
Jaylene Peterson-Nyren, Executive Director of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe said the office was shut down for the rest of the day after servers and phone lines went down. She said she hopes regular business hours will resume Thursday. Information will be posted on the tribe’s website
A maintenance crew and insurance company will assess the damage Thursday. Peterson-Nyren said the damage is minor considering the alternative. She said she was grateful that the 30 people inside the building came out safe.
“I’m impressed with the quick response from the fire department,” she said. “They took care to cover furniture and limit the damage. If it happened any other time it could have been a total loss.”