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

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

Disaster averted thanks to the fire department

Owner says fast response saved her family's home and business

 


A Valdez family says it has plenty to be grateful for after local emergency responders saved their home.

Susan Gilpatrick says Valdez firefighters saved her mobile home and the family's greenhouse business a week ago Tuesday after a fire broke out.

"I only lost one corner of my house," she said in an interview Monday. "Their response time was phenomenal."

The drama began for the Gilpatrick's when Susan says she sent her son Ian to the family's home at the 10 mile subdivision from a catering job they will had been working on at the Valdez Civic Center.

Gilpatrick said she expected the worst after her son called her with the bad news that their home was on fire.

"I figured everything was toast," she said, having seen so many old mobile homes destroyed by fire in her many years living in Valdez.

"It takes seven minutes for a trailer house to burn down," she said." It's not often that they could save one."

It was cold and windy in the area that day and the pipes that supply water to the home were frozen.

"I'm looking for that big black cloud of smoke," she said of her frantic drive.

She was indeed surprised when she arrived home.

"The fire was already out," she said. "The truck arrived with water within two minutes."

Gilpatrick credits the quick response time - and the volunteer fire departments professionalism - for averting a personal tragedy.

Firefighter Brad Arvidson, who lives in the Alpine Woods subdivision, was at the 10 mile fire station which is not typically fully manned.

"They were all professional," she said, thankful for their efforts. "The fire was underneath, it was in the walls."

Gilpatrick said her biggest fears on the ride to 10 miles from town - that her son might get injured trying to save family possessions - did not happen.

"The whole drive out I'm thinking I hope he doesn't try to be a hero," she said.

Ian did his fair share to save the day. He did reenter the burning building to retrieve Leah, the family dog. He also shut off the electricity and fuel tanks and did attempt to put out the blaze using a fire extinguisher.

"He did get some smoke damage to his lungs," she said, adding that he was briefly hospitalized and the dog was a little wheezy after the incident.

She said she was not so much worried about the trailer itself, but the family's treasures photos, art by the kids and other irreplaceable mementos are another matter.

"That's stuff you can't replace," she said. "Little things may not have the dollar value but to me they are priceless."

She said the fire was likely started at an electric outlet running heat tape.

"Ian said when he pulled the Ready Heater off he saw sparks flying," she said.

Gilpatrick so she knows that she is lucky and the family is back in their home.

"My life got to continue with just a little bump," she said. "I get to have coffee in my own home."

Gilpatrick is also grateful for the actions of the emergency responders after the fire was put out. She said they re-skirted the trailer with Styrofoam from one of the greenhouses after it was certain the fire would not return.

Photo courtesy Susan Gilpatrick

Leah, the 5-year old Shepard/Newfoundland mix dog, who was rescued from the house fire at the home of the Gilpatrick family located at their greenhouse business on the Richardson Highway.

This holiday, the Gilpatrick's we'll have many blessings to count.

Susan said she is so happy to be able to be at home with her family, including the dog, who she says is an icon in the family's businesses.

"It's funny, there's all these different languages, but that everybody speaks dog," she said of Leah, a five-year old Shepard/ Newfoundland mix. "She's a priceless mutt - she brought as out of our funk."

And again expressed her appreciation to Valdez emergency responders in their ability to save the family home.

"This was a rare, rare, rare," she said.

 

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