An apartment fire early Tuesday morning called Nome firefighters to the kitchen of a Belmont Point six-unit complex, arriving to a scene of intense heat and smoke but few flames in the home of a volunteer with Nome’s ambulance department who was out on a call.
No one was injured in the blaze, but the ambulance volunteer lost his dog to the smoke.
Nome fire chief Jim West, Jr., said the call came just after 3 a.m. Tuesday, reporting a haze and the smell of smoke at the Seppala Apartment complex. West said members of the Nome Volunteer Fire Department found heavy smoke but no one home at the second-floor apartment. Firefighters quickly evacuated the building as they located the source of the smoke: something burning on the stove in one of the units.
West said it was a close call.
“The lucky part about it, [the tenant] didn’t have a window that was cracked. The building was pretty tight, as far as air movement. So once it flashed over it kind of lost oxygen,” West said. “The apartment itself was full of smoke. So it lost oxygen, and the fire actually went out, and then when we made entry there was no visible flame or anything, it was just all hot. Very hot inside.”
A team of four firefighters entered the building and extinguished the heat. West said not much water was needed to control the scene. More firefighters came to assist—ten in all—to help push the smoke out the windows and cool the room down.
West said that’s when volunteers with Nome’s ambulance department also arrived and learned the fire was at the home of one of their own.
“He had just responded to a call, and just as he was bringing the patient in, the tone-out came, and he kind of knew that something could be up. The possibility that something could be on the stove, or something of that nature,” West said.
West said they were on the scene for about an hour and a half quelling the heat and smoke. They were already in the apartment and well at work when he said firefighters with NVFD found the man’s dog, a victim of the thick smoke that filled the room.
“Very sad to lose a pet,” West said, “but no one was hurt other than that.”
That ambulance department volunteer declined to be interviewed but said he has “incredible gratitude” to the many community members who have offered help in the wake of the fire. In addition to his dog, he said he lost nearly all of his possessions in the fire. Nome community members have started a fundraising campaign to help the man recover and rebuild.
Only four people were in the building at the time of the fire. The Aurora Inn offered all tenants a room in the early morning hours of Tuesday, and for as long as they need until they can return home.
The apartment building itself is owned by Bering Straits Development Corporation. Jerald Brown with BSDC said, beyond the apartment where the fire took place, the damage to the other units is minimal. The goal is to have tenants moved back in by the end of the week.
Brown said it’s too early to estimate the cost to repair the damage in the one affected apartment, but he says it’ll need to be gutted and completely redone.