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Fire Destroys Historic Clearwater Lodge, Near Delta; Estimated Losses: $1 Million

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Tim Ellis/KUAC
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Updated: The Clearwater Lodge near Delta Junction burned to the ground this morning. The rustic lodge was a popular gathering place for fishermen, birders and others who come to the Clearwater River.

The fire was reported around 3 a.m. and in a few hours all that was left was a pile of smoldering rubble.

There were no injuries. But Clearwater Lodge co-owner Patsy Ewing was clearly exhausted around 10 a.m. Thursday after a nearly sleepless night.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said.

Ewing was fielding questions from the local fire chief while entering phone numbers and other data into her cellphone, which was constantly buzzing in her pocket with texts and Facebook posts from friends and well-wishers.

“I’m still spinning but it’s … People contacting me has been amazing.” She said. “I’ve felt a lot of care and concern. My phone is blowing up with people saying, y’know, ‘Are you OK? We’re so sorry.’ It’s just amazing.”

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Credit Tim Ellis/KUAC
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Clearwater Lodge co-owner Patsy Ewing surveys the scene Thursday morning.

State Forestry firefighters kept watch overnight at the site, because of red-flag fire conditions, and winds that were expected to kick up overnight.

The lodge was a total loss. Rural Deltana Fire Chief Tim Castleberry estimated damages totaling about a million dollars. Castleberry had just begun investigating, so he couldn’t say what sparked the fire.

“We’re not sure,” he said. “It looks like it started in the basement. But once things cool down, we’ll be able to get (in) and look a little bit more.”

But it’s not just a dollar-and-cents loss. An important piece of Delta-area history also went up in smoke Thursday.

The lodge was built back in 1954 by Al Remington, who along with a half-dozen others settled in the Clearwater area around then and developed it. Patsy and her husband Kevin bought it in 2001 from Remington’s grandson.

The lodge was known far and wide over the years as a headquarters for local snowmachine races.

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Credit Clearwater Lodge
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A horseshoe pit and picnic area are located in the grassy expanse leading from the banks of Clearwater Creek to the back door of the lodge. This photo was taken a few years ago.

It’s more widely known by folks from all over who come here for a meal and a cold one after a day fishing on the Clearwater.

“A lot of people out of Anchorage, a lot of people out of Fairbanks like to come here,” she said, “because it has amazing fishing and had a great atmosphere.”

It’s also a favorite place for campers from the Clearwater State Recreation Area, located next door.

Ewing says she hadn’t had much of a chance to think about the future yet. But as she surveyed the scene a few hours after the fire, she was already entertaining rebuilding.

“Yeah. Probably my knee-jerk reaction is that it will be rebuilt,” she said. “But, we’ll see how the money falls out. That’s always an issue.”

Today, after a good night’s sleep, Patsy and Kevin Ewing may begin seriously considering the idea of a new lodge arising from the ashes of the old one.

Editor's note: This story was revised to clarify that the Clearwater Lodge was built in 1954.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.