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Ketchikan Home Lost in Easter Fire
No injuries, pets saved
By M.C. Kauffman


April 18, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - No one was home at the time of the fire which destroyed the home of Robert and Vicki Inkster at 52 Carlton's Drive.

The fire in the Pond Reef area north of Ketchikan was first discovered in its early stages by a neighbor, Derek Flom, who acted quickly and called 911. North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dave Hull said the report of the fire came in at 12:30 pm Sunday, Easter day. Hull was on dispatch at the time and took the call. He said, "The report was of a fire on the outside front of the house that was building fast."

jpg Easter Fire Destroys Home

Home Fire at 52 Carlton's Drive
Photograph courtesy Elizabeth Flom ©2006

Hull said, "Confirmation of a structure fire came at 12:33 and that brought with it another tone out for 'automatic aid' from South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department and Ketchikan Fire Department in the form of water tankers and crew."

"Our first arriving North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department unit arrived on scene at 12:36 and immediately requested a 'mutual aid' response of additional firefighting personnel from STVFD and KFD." said Chief Hull.

Hull said, "The first arriving North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department personnel were successful in attacking the fire quickly from the outside and knocked the fire down on the first floor of the structure." He said, "They were also able to establish a water supply with a 3,0000 gallon water tank and filled it with water from our tanker 8."

"When I arrived at 12:45 to take command, preparations were being made for an interior attack as enough firefighters had arrived on scene to permit this," said Hull. "At that time a second floor add on portion was fully involved and charged with heavy black smoke."

Chief Hull said, "The first interior crews consisted of three of our women members, Gretchen Skillings, Cathy Tighe, and Wendy Mackie." He said, "They all did a great job."

"Ketchikan Fire Department's Assistant Chief Jim Hill arrived on scene shortly afterward and took control of the Operations portion, or the actual firefight, and directed crews that went into the structure to fight the fire head on," said NTVFD Chief Hull.

According to Chief Hull, three attempts were needed before crews were able to bring the fire under control and eventually extinguish the fire at around 3:27 pm. During one interior attack, one of the firefighters became disorientated and called a "Mayday" which set into motion an immediate rescue effort for the lost firefighter.

jpg Rescued firefighter

Rescue effort successful. Firefighter escaped uninjured.
Photograph courtesy Elizabeth Flom ©2006

Hull said, "The crews preformed as trained, including the trapped firefighter, and the Mayday situation was successfully dealt with and over with in about six minutes. The firefighter escaped uninjured. The crews at that time took a deep breath of relief and went back to work extinguishing the fire."

During the fire, the Ketchikan Fire Department responded to an ambulance call in the North Tongass area. Hull said, "This is part of the Mutual Aid agreement that this call went virtually unnoticed except for the personnel involved with the ambulance call. All units were clear and back in service at 1705."

On the scene was Elizabeth Flom, a neighbor of the Inksters. Flom said, "The house was a loss but all their pets did survive. Three of the dogs survived after being in the blaze the whole time. Amazing! My main concern was the pets. I was so happy they made it."

Elizabeth Flom said, "The fireman being assisted out of the burning house brought a tear to my eye. I found out later he became confused while walking in the burning house and could not find his way back out. I [can] not imagine such heroic measures."

According to Hull, "The cause of the fire is apparently an overloaded electrical outlet on the front of the structure where the fire was first reported."

Chief Hull said, "I understand the owners of the house had no insurance."



Contact M.C. Kauffman at

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