UPDATE: Second fire victim identified; APD requests public help in locating next of kin

Published: Feb. 15, 2017 at 3:35 AM AKST
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Two people are dead and 16 injured following a fast-moving fire at the Royal Suite Lodge apartments in Spenard early Wednesday morning. The blaze is among the worst in recent memory with some tenants jumping from third-story windows to save themselves.

With the cause still under investigation, dozens of people have been forced from their homes. Read team updates from KTUU staff below and watch the latest coverage at 10 p.m. on Channel 2.

Friday 4:10 p.m. Update:

The Anchorage Police Department issued a statement identifying the second person found dead at the scene of the Minnesota Drive apartment fire, on Friday.

Vivian Hall, 63, has been confirmed as the second person found dead, by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

APD has not been able to locate Hall's next of kin, yet. And police now request the public's assistance.

If anyone knows or has contacts with the family in question, APD asks that you call dispatchers at 907-786-8900, or the State Medical Examiner's Officer at 907-334-2200.

Wednesday 2:10 p.m. Update:

Anchorage Fire Chief Denis LeBlanc says the fire that killed two people and hospitalized 16 might have started in an adjacent parking area, delaying initial discovery of the blaze.

A fire captain arriving at the scene was the one who pulled a fire alarm on the second-floor of the three-story complex, LeBlanc said.

Residents jumped from second- and third-story windows to save themselves, some suffering broken legs. Among those transported to four local hospitals for treatment were two children in critical condition.

Wednesday 11 a.m. Update:

Anchorage Police have issued a statement identifying one of the people found dead at the scene of the Minnesota Drive apartment fire.

Teuaililo G. Nua, 38, was found dead by officials and transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office, APD said in the Nixle alert. her exact cause of death is not yet known, however police say the medical examiner will attempt to determine that in the following autopsy.

Original reports from the police said two people died at the scene, and they added in their message that the exact number of those dead won't be known until the building has been cleared by Anchorage Fire Department.

The APD message also asks for witnesses and victims of the fire to give statements to police "as soon as they are able." In addition, they broadly ask "anyone else with any information regarding the fire" to similarly contact police.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. This story is still developing.

Wednesday 12:20 p.m. Update:

Anchorage Fire Marshal Cleo Hill says the fire alarm at the Royal Suite Lodge where two people were killed in a blaze today was working perfectly when it was last inspected in April.

However, there have been two instances of people pulling the alarm when no fire was present since Jan. 26, she said.

Apartment residents told Channel 2 today that those false alarms might have contributed to some tenants delaying their response to the alarm this morning, thinking there was once again no fire.

“In the last couple of weeks we’ve had several. People were getting in arguments and for one reason or another would set off the fire alarm,” said school bus driver Robert Miller, who has lived on the third floor of the burned building for about a year. “One night, a lady did it four times.”

The Spenard apartments, a former hotel, were built in 1977, public records show. Hill said the building did not have a sprinkler system but was not legally required to under a "grandfather clause" due age of the units.

Original Story:

A large, fatal fire with multiple victims had dozens of crews on scene in Spenard, according to the Anchorage Fire Department. The fire was "fully engaged" by 2:30 a.m. early Wednesday morning.

Crews on scene said that 16 people have been sent to the hospital, and two people are confirmed to be dead. Michelle Weston with the Alaska Native Medical Center says 3 of the 16 injured were transferred to the center, though their condition is still unknown.

Kjerstin Lastufka with Alaska Regional Hospital says five people were taken to that hospital. Of the five, three were checked out and discharged, one was admitted for treatment, and one was "transferred to Seattle for treatment via a Life Flight air lift."

Lastufka said this Seattle location was likely Harborview Medical Center, as it has a dedicated burn unit. Alaska hospitals do not have specific units for burn victims, so patients are often taken there when necessary, Lastufka said.

AFD says those sent to the hospital have injuries ranging from "moderate to severe." The identities of those killed or injured is not yet known.

Fire crews are still working on the fire. Investigators with AFD remain on the scene to ensure all hot spots are put out.

Units on the scene say investigations into the cause are stalled as the building has still not been declared structurally sound. Due to this, investigators have not been allowed to enter the structure to determine what exactly caused the fire.

Witnesses say residents could be seen jumping from apartment windows to save themselves. Roy Miller, a resident of the apartment building and witness at the scene, said he saw people jumping from windows on the third floor, and even helped catch falling children.

"You know, their parents had their kids out the window and I was standing there and I said 'I'll do my best to catch you,'" Miller said.

Another resident, Andrew Oviok, said he helped carry a woman who had fallen out of a window. "There was also a lady that jumped, and I helped her. I helped that lady walk to the ambulance, and I carried her," Oviok said.

AFD lists the location as 3811 Minnesota Drive, the Royal Suite Lodge. More than 30 crews responded to help fight the blaze. Minnesota Road from Tudor to Spenard was completely shut down during this time to allow fire crews to access the scene.

AFD says the bowling alley on Minnesota Drive, Center Bowl, was being set up as a makeshift shelter for those displaced by the fire. People Mover assisted in transporting displaced parties from the scene.

This is a developing story, new information will be reflected as it becomes available.

Correction: In a message released by AFD, they have adjusted their headcount of those injured in the fire to 16. They said 17 earlier this morning. A spokesperson with AFD confirms that one person was counted twice, causing the confusion, but confirms the overall count that two have died, and 16 were injured. Fire officials say the next of kin for the second fatal victim have not yet been notified, so their identity has not yet been released by authorities.