Community members help the Coolidge family after home burns down in Aleknagik

Aug 24, 2021

The Coolidge family has received an outpouring of support from folks in the community. People have shared money, clothes, fish, and berries since the incident. A GoFundMe page was also created to help the family rebuild their home.

Credit Courtesy of Ron Bowers

 

Credit Courtesy of Ron Bowers

When smoke alarms woke the Coolidge family around 5:00 a.m. they tried to figure out where the smoke was coming from. Debbie Coolidge says the fire started by a freezer on the porch.

“So I ran outside and grabbed the garden hose and started spraying things down," she said. "It went out, but you can see where it was still smoldering underneath the metal siding.”

Coolidge, her son and daughter, and their two dogs got out of the house.

The fire reignited as Coolidge’s daughter went to neighbors for help. Another resident dialed 911.

Aleknagik firefighters attempted to use a fire truck from Aleknagik’s South Shore fire station, but it was out of service. Firefighters shuttled multiple tanker loads of water to the scene and residents tried to help by spraying the home with a garden hose.

By the time the Dillingham Fire Department arrived on scene to help, the fire had engulfed the house and burned everything inside.

Credit Courtesy of Debbie Coolidge

“We’ve lost everything, from clothes to all the fish and game I put away this summer," Coolidge said. "The berries and you know, the mementos. I think the thing that hurts the most is losing all the little things your children made when they were little. You know the little pictures and crafts and stuff. I think that’s what is the hardest to deal with.”

Coolidge and her family were taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation; there were no other injuries. She attributes her family’s safety to the smoke alarms.

“I just don’t think we would’ve been here," she said. "I would really like to emphasize to people in the Bristol Bay area and everywhere to check your smoke detectors. Make sure they work. Those smoke detectors saved our lives. I have no doubt about it.”

The Coolidge family has received an outpouring of support from folks in the community. People have shared money, clothes, fish, and berries since the incident. A GoFundMe page was also created to help the family rebuild their home. The family is currently staying in Anchorage.

Credit Courtesy of Ron Bowers

“It’s so heartening to see how much people actually care. It’s just amazing," Coolidge said. "This is an amazing community when things happen like this people band together. That’s what life is all about: Supporting each other.”

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.

You can find Debbie Coolidge’s GoFundMe here.

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200