GLENNALLEN, Alaska (KTUU) - The Mendeltna Creek Lodge near Glennallen has burned down. Rowdy Allain, the fire chief for Nelchina and Mendeltna, says the fire appears to have started in the living quarters, in the rear of the building.
Tim DeSpain, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers, says a passing motorist made a report that the lodge was on fire shortly before 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. "AST and multiple volunteer fire departments from the area responded to the scene but were unable to save the structure," said DeSpain.
Allain says the cause of the fire is unknown and the fire mashal will be traveling to Mendeltna to investigate. He says it took around 10-hours to fight the fire to a point where crews felt comfortable leaving. However, he said crews would continue working through Sunday evening. Allain said fire crews weren't equipped to fight the fire from the interior of the building, instead fighting it from outside the lodge.
The lodge's owners, Mabel and Russ Wimmer, were not at lodge during the fire but their two dogs and a cat perished in the fire. Russ works on the North Slope and Mabel says she was in Palmer overnight with a friend for Colony Christmas singing Christmas carols. Mabel says she is grateful for the outpouring of support from her neighbors: "I just want to thank everyone for their hugs and thoughts, it means everything to me right now."
Mabel says the lodge is over 80-years old and these lodges "are a major part of our history". "It belongs to everybody, it's my home and my business, but it belongs to everybody," said Wimmer.
Frank Adkins grew up in the Mendeltna Creek Lodge. He says his parents, Vern and Carol Adkins, bought the lodge in 1970, moving to Alaska from Miami, Florida. Adkins says he was 3-years-old at the time and the family traveled back and forth from Florida fixing the lodge for a few years. By the time he was 8-years-old, Adkins moved there permanently. Carol Adkins owned the property for 30-years before selling it to the Wimmers.
"It's sad to see, it's one of the last great Alaskan roadhouses and now it's gone," said Adkins.
He describes that Vern Adkins had a sawmill and he built a lot of the lodge's additions by hand. In the '70s, Adkins says the lodge was a vital resource in a "desolate area." People would get food, fuel and gather there for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. "It's more than a home, it's your family's legacy, it's where you get your memories," said Adkins.
Shortly after midday, Kelly Allain, Rowdy Allain's wife, posted a Facebook live video, shot from the exterior of the lodge. It appeared from that perspective that firefighters had extinguished all the flames.
Around 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning, Allain posted a video showing the lodge fully-involved. There were enormous flames coming from inside the building. She says in the video that the lodge is a total loss.
When the fire department arrived, crews were turning off the power to the building. Allain said he traveled around the lodge taking possible accelerants away from the fire and saving what he could. Allain says he was able to save some expensive snowmachines, a hot tub, propane tanks and a water house - a vital resource for a roadhouse.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.