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Fire Destroys Home in Delta; No Injuries

Rural Deltana Volunteer Fire Department

Two Delta Junction-area residents are staying at a local bed-and-breakfast after fire destroyed their home on Monday. But the homeowners say they're just glad to be alive.

Rural Deltana Fire Chief Tim Castleberry says he and his crew arrived at the two-story home a few miles north of Delta around 2:30 p.m. Monday. And by then, flames had pretty much engulfed the structure.

“And we finally left that fire at about 10 o’ clock,” Castleberry said. But, he added, by then he’d already determined what probably sparked the fire.

“The cause we’ve got is a space heater in a crawlspace, trying to keep the pipes thawed out,” he said.

It’s a common problem that most homeowners in Alaska have dealt with after a cold snap freezes their plumbing. So the chief took the opportunity to remind others to avoid that mistake.

“It’s the middle of winter, the cold season,” he said, “and we just caution people on using space heaters for trying to heat certain areas.”

Castleberry says while still on-site he got another fire call about smoke at a residence nearby. He says he diverted a backup crew from Fort Greely Fire Department to the other house just off the Tanana Loop Extension, and before long they reported the situation was under control.

“It was basically a close call,” Castleberry said. “The homeowner reported the smell of smoke and fire alarms going off. And it was a toaster that was shorting-out.”

That homeowner was lucky. But Scott Mugrage, the guy whose home was destroyed, said Tuesday that he, too, feels kind of fortunate.

“We were insured and, yeah, we’re just glad that my wife and I we were both gone,” he said. “We have no pets. There was no injury in the fire.”

Mugrage raises beef cattle for a living, and has part ownership of a slaughterhouse in North Pole. He says the economic damage from the loss of his house was estimated at about a quarter-million dollars, and that the loss of the stuff inside cost him another couple hundred-thousand. But he says he’s keeping it all in perspective.

“That was just belongings,” he said. “We’re safe, and our health and life is worth more than anything in that house.”

Mugrage and his wife, Julia, are staying at a nearby bed and breakfast establishment, where they’ll begin planning to rebuild in the coming year.

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.