parade of the Nome fire department for the July 4th celebration Alaska 1901 hegg_707-jpeg

Dangerous Fires in Alaska

I recently scrolled through the Alaska Historical Society’s “This Month in Alaska History” ( for ideas for this week’s blog post. I was struck by the number of structures that burned in December. Here’s a sample:

December 4, 1932 – The public school building at Fairbanks was destroyed by fire.

December 6, 1907 – Fire started in the Model Cafe at Fairbanks, burned it, a drug store, and a men’s clothing store

December 8, 1960 – The Lazy Mountain Children’s Home near Palmer was destroyed by fire.

December 13, 1883 – The Custom House at Sitka, a log building built by the Russians, was gutted by fire.

December 22, 1919 – The trading store of the Sons of Norway at Petersburg was destroyed by fire.

December is a dangerous time for wooden buildings. It kind of makes sense, that the dead of winter is the time most people would be heating their buildings with lots of wood or coal, and that it could get out of hand and set a wooden building on fire. But it is sad that it happened so often.

If a town or village was lucky, it had a good fire department on duty to keep fires from spreading. The Juneau Volunteer Fire Department was founded in 1899.  The photo in this article is of the Nome Fire Department in a 4th of July parade in 1901 (via Wikipedia Commons). Anchorage’s Fire Department was founded in 1915. Now, most communities have either a paid or volunteer fire department. But we still have to be careful, especially in the winter. A cold night is a rotten time to lose your shelter and belongings.

Here’s a link to the American Red Cross, if you’d like to help our neighbors who need help after fires and other disasters:

I love to share my passion for Alaska and its history in my writing for young adults and their grown ups.

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