Published on NewsOK Modified: May 28, 2014 at 3:28 pm •  Published: May 28, 2014
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Starting in a downtown dentist's office by an unattended flame, a fire tore through much of the fledgling city on the banks of the Chena River before fire crews were able to corral the flames. The size of the blaze was such that firefighters couldn't maintain water pressure in the hoses they used to knock back the conflagration. In a piece of quick thinking, the manager at the Northern Commercial Company raided his storeroom for 2,000 pounds of bacon to help stoke the boilers. The additional pressure the bacon provided kept the hoses running, and crews managed to stop the fire's progression before it consumed more of the town.

Our city is no stranger to disaster or hardship, as its citizens learned that day and again many times since. After the fire, there were real concerns about whether the town could survive the blow to its business core. But locals regrouped, rebuilt and eventually resumed their lives as before.

The threat of a fire destroying Fairbanks seems remote now, as the city has grown to a point where we have the resources to combat blazes both in and out of town. Though fire is no longer an existential threat to the city, on a personal scale its effects are as devastating as ever. The fire in January that destroyed an apartment complex on Geraghty Street killed two people and rendered dozens homeless. Last year's fires in and around Two Rivers threatened dozens of homes, as well as businesses and quite a few dog teams. And as the residents of Soldotna can attest today, even with our expanded capacity for fighting wildland fires, it's hard to rest easy when thousands of acres are burning a few miles away.

Especially in the summer, the threat of fires in the Interior is real. Both in populated areas and in the woods surrounding town, it doesn't take much to turn a few flames into an inferno, and it pays to be extremely careful when doing anything involving an open flame or coals.

It's worth recognizing, too, that municipal fire crews and wildland firefighters have done a stellar job protecting both the lives of Interior residents and their property in recent years. In Two Rivers last year, flames burned within feet of the Two Rivers Lodge before crews staged a defense that was nothing short of miraculous and saved the building. At the Geraghty Street fire in January, dozens of firefighters from crews all over Fairbanks, North Pole, Fort Wainwright, and the university fought the blaze. They worked for hours in below-freezing conditions in the wee hours of the morning to ensure the flames didn't spread to nearby buildings or the woods behind.

Perhaps this will be the summer that Fairbanks can finally rest easy with no fires close to town, but experience has taught us better than to count on that being the case. And when a column of smoke does rise in the Tanana Valley, as one likely will, we'll be grateful for those who turn out to make sure it doesn't destroy our homes or threaten our loved ones.

We'll keep our fingers crossed that we won't have to raid the grocery stores for bacon to keep the hoses working.



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