The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

 
 

By Mark Dickman
For The Star 

Fire destroys historic Copper Center Lodge

Crews battle blaze for over five hours, saving nearby outbuildings

 


The Copper Center Lodge, a historic roadhouse, burned to the ground in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 20. It was a complete loss.

Laurinda Dickman of Valdez was staying at the lodge with her husband at the time of the fire. The couple had been visiting Glennallen in celebration the graduation of their two nieces.

Dickman knew something was wrong when she awoke around 2:30 a.m. to use the restroom. When she went into the hallway, she could smell what she described as “a burning plastic smell.”

At approximately 2:51 a.m. she called her husband who was returning late from the Eureka Lodge on the Glenn Highway. She described an overbearing smell that made it hard to breath. She vacated the building and called 911.

“I was worried about the other guests,” she said. “I knew there were several in the building and I was worried they wouldn’t make it out.”

She pounded on the door of the room next door, but got no answer.

“I tried calling the phone number to the lodge, but it went to voicemail,” she said. “I was scared and frustrated that I couldn’t reach anyone or that there was no staff in the hotel.”

She finally left the building when instructed by the 911 operator and went to a nearby cabin and banged on the door.

“I could hear dogs barking inside, but no one came to the door,” she said.

A few moments later she saw what she thought was fire in the rear part of the building.

“I was looking up at the back window into the laundry room and it was glowing red,” she said. “I also saw smoke in the hallway and that’s when I heard the fire alarm.”

She started to head to another house where she could see lights on inside when she heard a window break and some screaming.

“I ran back to the side of the building and I saw a young man climbing out the second floor window. He was pushed from behind and fell down the ladder,” she said.

She then witnessed an elderly gentleman start out the window who had earlier refused to leave the room.

“He lost his balance and began to fall,” she said. “He was hanging from the side of the ladder.”

Two fire/rescue personnel were the first to arrive on the scene followed by a state trooper.

Everyone made it out of the building according to the state trooper at the scene.

Photo courtesy of Mark Dickman

The historic Copper Center Roadhouse was consumed by fire in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 20.

Volunteer fire crews from Gakona, Kenny Lake, Tazlina, and Glenn-Rich responded to the fire. It took over five hours to extinguish the blaze, and crews worked long and hard to keep the fire contained and away from nearby structures.

“It’s so sad,” Dickman said. “This place has been here so long. I feel so bad for the owners.”

The lodge has been owned by the Huddleston family since the 1940s. The couple plans to rebuild.

The lodge was one of the last remaining roadhouses on the highway. It was originally built as a copper center roadhouse in 1896. Ironically, the lodge was rebuilt in the 1932 after a fire.

“The Lodge is gone, very sad,” the lodge’s website says. “But the plan is to rebuild as soon as we get the insurance stuff taken care of. It is just a building. The history is still here.”

 

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