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House burned down near Dillingham's Snag Point

Heavy smoke filled the air above Dillingham’s Snag Point early Friday afternoon.

Firefighters pointed water hoses at the charred remains of a house. Small bursts of flame flicker inside. At one point, remnants of the blaze flared up in the bed of an old pickup next to the house.

According to a GoFundMe page organized by a Dillingham police officer, the resident is a police dispatcher and was inside with her dog when the fire started. Both she and the dog were able to get out safely.

“We arrived on the scene and we had a family dwelling with smoke showing out of the eaves and smoke showing from the windows," said Dillingham Fire Department Coordinator Scott Runzo. "Got confirmation that people were out of the house and the animals, and we dispatched it out a couple times and got a full crew here.” 

Runzo said that along with the police and fire department, the airport staff responded with their fire truck to help tamp down the blaze. They were focused on protecting the three neighboring houses and a nearby skiff. Runzo said the fire had been burning for some time before they arrived.

“It's a house with a basement, metal roof. Pretty much typical for Dillingham," he said. "Not sure what the fire started, it doesn't look but it was obviously involved in the basement. And it was coming out of the attic and we are here so it was probably going for a little bit before we got here.”

220916 Dillingham firefighters.
Izzy Ross
Dillingham firefighters. Sept. 16, 2022.

Dillingham’s acting police chief, Sgt. Craig Maines, said the fire left the home uninhabitable.

“[The resident] said it was her electric heater," he said. "Everybody responded fine. Everybody got here in a decent amount of time and got the job done. Unfortunately the house is a total loss though.”

The local utility, Nushagak Cooperative, sent workers out to disconnect cable TV and power lines in the area to protect the utility’s infrastructure. Christian Olsen was one of the crew.

“We just saw the smoke and we just came right down here to check it out, and we saw that we had a line connected to the house that was on fire. So we had to cut it down,” he said.

Laakea Chu was up at the top of a telephone pole on a boom truck doing just that.

“It's incredibly smoky. I can't see more than about 20 feet in front of my face," he said. "It's chaos going down here. On a rainy day too. Unbelievable. It's just heartbreaking honestly.”

This is Dillingham’s third house fire since early August, when a house and a trailer burned down in two separate incidents. Witnesses said the August house fire started after a smokehouse was left unattended. But the City of Dillingham doesn’t have fire investigators, so the exact causes of the fires are unknown.

The fire department is working on public safety outreach, and has resources available on its Facebook page. The department also plans to visit Dillingham schools for fire prevention month in October.

The Dillingham Police Department has set up a GoFundMe page for people to donate to the person who lost her house.

Get in touch with the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.