Roof collapses pressure engineers to get handle on structural flaws

Small business moves after Fairview building collapses over weekend
Roof collapses urge engineers to get handle on structural flaws
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 8:48 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In the days since the fourth roof collapse in three weeks struck Southcentral Alaska, business owners and homeowners have been left wondering what to do about their roofs.

The failure that brought the roof down on a clothing thrift shop Saturday morning in Fairview was just one of multiple collapses that have occurred in Anchorage and Palmer, and it’s pushing engineers to try to get a handle on possible roof structural flaws around the area.

The small business on Ingra Street was called FashionPact. The owner, Brittani Clancey, said her business is now moving to a new location, but said the destroyed spot will be missed.

“I mean FashionPact really was a hub for community coming together,” Clancey said. “And to see it explode like that — I don’t know if that’s the right word — to see it collapse like that, it’s sad. It’s sad.”

Security cameras picked up the moment the roof collapsed at a clothing thrift store in Anchorage on March 4, 2023.

Clancey said she hopes her destroyed Fairview business can be rebuilt or repaired, or possibly expanded into a larger space eventually.

She said it was shocking and unexpected when the fire department called her Saturday morning.

“To kind of find that it was at a complete standstill and ... that many things physically were now gone, and that every little thing would have to be redone, is terrible,” Clancey said.

But Clancey said it meant the world to her that there was nobody in the building at the time of the collapse.

“You can rebuild stuff, you can figure that out, but you can’t replace a lost life,” she said.

After building engineers took a look at the roof, Clancey said they couldn’t say for sure what caused the collapse.

The collapse of FashionPact followed two other building failures in February: first was the Palmer Library roof, and second was a CrossFit gym in a Taku-Campbell neighborhood that tragically killed one woman.

Less than 24 hours after FashionPact’s roof came down, a fourth building had similar issues, this one an apparent vehicle transmission business on Dowling Road.

On Wednesday, the Municipality of Anchorage Building Safety Director held a meeting with the structural engineers of Alaska in efforts to get a handle on structural flaws in the city.

The meeting was held in hopes of casting some historical context on the problem that they’ve identified in some roofs that have collapsed, notably roof truss failures. With the series of incidents seemingly appearing at random, no one initially realized that there was a common occurrence in these collapses until now.

Engineering Services Manager Ross Noffsinger said building engineers began to notice a pattern with the four collapses.

“I’m confident to say that we definitely have a generation of buildings with substandard roof trusses in them,” he said.

Noffsinger said the primary recommendation still stands, which is to get the snow off the roofs. Noffsinger emphasized the importance to have professionals do this because private owners can put a building in jeopardy by creating concentrated loads of snow and ice.

Clancey says that as a small business owner, she’s tried to prepare herself for just about anything, and in this case, she’s glad that she had insurance.

“We’re here, we’re moving forward, and that’s sometimes the best we can do,” Clancey said.

Engineers are still working on a long-term solution for finding the buildings with the defects around Anchorage.

FashionPact’s grand opening in their new building — which will be located on Dimond Boulevard near King Street — is planned for March 17. They accept donations Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.