A fire tore through a home in the Arrowhead Mobile Home Park in Sitka Thursday evening (2-25-16). All three residents are safe, along with their pet dog.
To hear Michael Sams tell it, the fire started without warning and moved very quickly. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon. “My grandson, Cecil, had just gotten home from school. He was playing a video game on his TV there and I was cooking some stew,” Sams said. “And I saw this flash back there, in the back bedroom.”
The trailer is home to Sams’s daughter, Alicia Soto, her fiance Wayne Patterson, and their 7-year-old son Cecil Patterson. While the yellow structure, situated near the mouth of Indian River, still stands, the inside is scorched black and smoked through. The air is musty, still carrying traces of the blaze.
On the tops of Sams’s hands are bright red burn marks, the size of a quarter. “I tried to put the fire out and I had only one fire extinguisher, but by the time I saw it, it was going pretty well,” he said.
Sams brought Cecil and the family dog, Dodger, outside. Cecil called 911, while Sams went back inside try to contain the fire. “The smoke was down to about waist high. It was pretty scary how fast it all happened. And the wind yesterday didn’t do us any favors either,” he said.
By 4:45 p.m., the fire department responded and was able to put out the blaze. Assistant Fire Chief Al Stevens determined the cause to be faulty electrical wiring in the back bedroom.
The fire was accelerated by the paper used to hold up the insulation in the ceiling. Stevens said this feature is common in many older trailers and doesn’t meet current fire code. Stevens said, “The electrical wiring arc caught that paper and that was able to spread the whole length of the trailer, from one end to the other.”
Stevens said the family was able to recover their personal belongings, but the trailer, which Patterson had just paid off, didn’t have insurance on it. “I’m writing it off as a total loss, but because the majority of the fire was in the back bedroom and in the overhead, there may be an opportunity [Patterson] can salvage it and put a false roof over it,” Stevens said.
Stevens added that he’s happy none of the occupants were harmed, and stressed the importance of calling 911 the moment a fire begins.
Back at the home, Sams returned to assess the damage. The stew he was cooking is on a bench nearby, now cold. Raindrops are bouncing off the lid. He grabbed the pot in the fray, as he left the house. “For some reason, I turned off the range at the same time,” he said. “I grabbed that and thought, ‘Maybe it’s going to be a long night tonight.’ I never did get around to eating any of it. I’m still not hungry. I’ve just been sick all evening. No sleep at all.”
In light of the devastation, family and friends have rallied. Dawn Menendez, a family friend, quickly set up an online donation page for the family through the website GoFundMe. In less than 24 hours, the “Soto/Patterson House Fire Fund” has raised over $6,000 towards its $10,000 goal.
Ernie’s Bar is also accepting clothing donations for the Soto/Patterson family in the following sizes:
Boy’s size 8 pants, size M shirts, and size 2 shoes
Men’s size 36/30 jeans, size XXL shirts, and size 11-12 shoes
Women’s size 13 pants, size XL shirts, and size 9 shoes