Cause of Geraghty Street fire still unknown; one victim in intestive care

Ian Larsen/ Sun Star Reporter

Feb. 4, 2014

A fire last Wednesday morning left two people dead, one critically injured and approximately 50 residents homeless. The fire engulfed a two-story building on Geraghty Street containing a second hand furniture store and 18 apartments.

The fire spread quickly, making it difficult for residents to leave the building. Firefighters arrived at the scene within minutes and began evacuating residents who were trapped in the building.

Roughly 20 minutes after firefighters arrived, parts of the second floor began to collapse. As the building began to collapse, three student firefighters were inside. The firefighters could not be reached for comment because their unit is currently out of town.

Two bodies, who are still unidentified, were found in the remains, one the night of the fire and another Thursday afternoon. Exactly how many people were caught in the building during the time of the fire is unknown.

Conar Groppel, a 17-year-old boy, was critically injured during the fire, and was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment. He is still in intensive care, but not in critical condition.

A few residents were sent to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for minor injuries including frostbite and smoke inhalation. Roughly three dozen residents stayed at a shelter provided by the Red Cross at University Community Presbyterian Church.

The apartment sprinkler system was checked by city fire officials the day before the fire, the building owner told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.  The sprinklers were deemed functional, however when the fire erupted, the sprinkler system failed to operate.

Residents reported hearing a loud explosion right before the building caught fire. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

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