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Kilbuck School burns in Bethel Tuesday

Shane Iverson / KYUK

Afternoon update: the Yup'ik immersion school has been destroyed, while the Kuskokwim Learning Academy and the library containing Yup'ik artifacts are still standing. 


KYUK, Bethel: 

Editor’s note: This is developing story, check back for updates

Updated at 4:30 p.m.:

Emergency crews remain onsite at the Kilbuck campus after flames broke out early this morning, demolishing a Bethel school.

“The actual immersion school is flat. The immersion school itself k-6 is not standing.”*

Joshua Gill is with the Lower Kuskokwim School District. The immersion school is a charter elementary Yup’ik school.

Charred remains of the building lay smoldering in billowing white smoke. Also destroyed are the operation and maintenance sections of the campus and the lockers holding the students’ school supplies and indoor shoes.

Still standing is the wing housing the media center containing Yup’ik
artifacts and hundreds of Yup’ik elder interviews, though heavy smoke and water damage is expected.

Lost are the Yup’ik instructional materials.

“There was a lot of age in those materials and a lot of personal blood, sweat and tears put into them that we’re definitely not going to be able to replace," said Gill. "But until we get in there and assess, we really don’t know. That was all created in-house here in LKSD with our folks.”

The Kuskokwim Learning Academy school and dorms are standing but inoperable. Heavy smoke and water damage is suspected. KLA is a residential, alternative high school.

Students evacuated the KLA dorms around 3:45 this morning after a fire alarm sounded. Most exited wearing pajamas. Their personal belongings are suspected to be destroyed.

Personnel transferred the students to a school district building where social workers are counseling the students. Immediate materials needs are being purchased from AC.

Meanwhile, the Bethel community has mobilized. Organizations are gathering supplies for donation and offering buildings to serve as temporary classrooms. And the community pool opened its doors to displaced students for the day.

Emergency efforts are ongoing. No reports of injury have occurred.

Updated at 12:25 p.m.:

The fires have calmed, but firefighters and law officials are still working to douse all the flames. The second half of the Kilbuck building is completely destroyed. However, the library, which housed Yup’ik artifacts, wasn’t damaged.

Police have cleared out 5th Ave. and blocked off the area.

The armory, located next to the building seems to have remained untouched by the flames.

Credit Dean Swope / KYUK

Updated at 11:24 a.m.:

Fire crews continue battling flames at the Ayaprun Elitnaurviat Yup’ik immersion school and the Kuskokwim Learning Academy. Fire hoses are streaming water into the Kilbuck building from multiple directions as thick smoke billows from every door, window, and sections of fallen roof and giant orange flames rise thick above the building.

Excavators have torn through the building, ripping the structure in two, to isolate the fire to one wing of the school and save the library housing Yup’ik artifacts from incinerating, though smoke and possibly water damage is likely.

Credit Dean Swope / KYUK

Backhoes also ripped sections away from the front part of the building to prevent flames from spreading to the adjacent armory.

Water trucks continue pulling in and out of the school, dumping their water and tearing out to gather more to bring back.

Police officers are blocking off the street and maintaining a perimeter as onlookers gather around, staring, some videoing, some crying, as they look on in disbelief.

School has been cancelled for the day and the KLA dorms evacuated. Teachers have been told they will be given more information on what to expect tomorrow by 5 p.m.

According to Bethel police officer Kadri Limani, the fire department received a call at 3:46 a.m. that sewer pipes outside the building were smoking. The fire alarm sounded inside the KLA dorms, and the students, many wearing just their pajamas, evacuated.

The fire department responded immediately and attempted to contain the fire, but it had spread inside the building.

Police then spent the morning diverting traffic as children walked to school and parents came to drop their kids off.

Attempts to extinguish the fire are ongoing. No reports of injury have occurred.

Credit Dean Swope / KYUK

Updated at 7:50 a.m.:

School at the Ayaprun Elitnaurviat Yup’ik immersion school and the Kuskokwim Learning Academy is closed today as fire crews battle a fire at the Kilbuck building in Bethel.

According to Josh Gill with the Lower Kuskokwim School District says no one was injured and the extent of the damage is still being assessed.

Gill says the school district with consult with the Bethel Fire Department and will release further information at later time.

Credit KYUK