Fire leaves 50 people without homes in Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Fire officials in Fairbanks say an apartment building fire has left one man seriously burned and more than 50 people homeless.

Several other people were treated for minor injuries after the fire early Wednesday morning gutted 18 apartments and a second-hand furniture store in the two-story building.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://is.gd/Wwyyaj ) that firefighters dug for hours at the scene for any indication of unaccounted for occupants of two apartments. Assistant Fire Chief Ernie Misewicz said earlier there was a possibility someone else might have been in the building.

One man was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment of his burns.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A fire at an apartment building has left more than 50 Fairbanks residents homeless, and fire officials were trying to account for the occupants of two apartments hours after the blaze started early Wednesday morning.

Assistant Fire Chief Ernie Misewicz said there was also the possibility another person might have been in the building.

"That's what we're trying to figure out right now," Misewicz told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://is.gd/EDXwPo).

Another man was rushed to a Seattle burn center for treatment after the fire at the two-story building on Geraghty Street.

"I opened the door to big old flames," resident Steven Mitchell, 56, told the News-Miner. "It was scary."

Another resident, Bill Simmons, 50, said he was asleep but heard a big bang. Then, he said, "my wife came in yelling, 'There's a fire.'"

Firefighters used ladders to rescue several people from the burning building because they were not able to reach the hallway to escape, Misewicz said.

"They were either standing at windows or on balconies to apartments and we helped them down the ladder," he said.

The man flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle made it out of the building before firefighters arrived.

Several occupants were being treated at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for more minor injuries like smoke inhalation, burns and cold-related injuries. The latter injuries came after residents rushed out of the building without shoes or socks when the temperature was about 15 degrees.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at University Community Presbyterian Church. Misewicz said about a dozen people were there late Wednesday morning.

The two-story building had apartments on the second story, a secondhand furniture store called The Tag Store and offices on the ground floor. The building was destroyed.

Fire officials don't yet know the cause of the fire, which was reported at 3:49 a.m.

Fairbanks Fire Chief Warren Cummings said flames were leaping out of a second-floor apartment in the middle of the building when firefighters arrived.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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