UPDATE: Aid expected Saturday after Kaktovik's only school declared a "total loss" from fire

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - UPDATE: Friday, 2/7/2020 at 9:15 p.m.:

(Courtesy Melvin Kayotuk)

According to D.J. Fauske, Director of Government and External Affairs with the North Slope Borough, news of the school burning down has brought in aid and support to Kaktovik less than 12 hours after the fire started.

They said a local business will allow their kitchen to be used to prepare school meals indefinitely; emergency equipment and supplies will be flown in Saturday morning on a charter continuing as needed; Kaktovik’s community center will be used as a learning space; and the North Slope School District and Borough IT departments are putting together servers and laptops for the students to use.

Flora Rexford grew up in Kaktovik and graduated from the school. Now, she is a teacher. She said the school was supposed to host a basketball tournament this weekend. Due to the frozen pipes in the gym, she and the team went to Atqasuk instead. Those children played for their school that won't be there upon there return.

"Everyone's in shock," she said, "Asking, 'where are we gonna go to school? What are we gonna do? What's gonna happen to the rest of the school year? What's gonna happen to the rest of our season? We don't have a place to practice we don't have - '. And there's just so much there. They have a lot of personal belongings in lockers. It's just surreal talking to them about it."

Her uncle, Fenton Rexford, is a former mayor of the town. He said the building was essential to the community, but the people will pull through.

"You know, materials can be replaced, but human beings and folks are irreplaceable and we thankful that everybody is safe," he said, "Kaktovik people are resilient, we're strong, we'll be able to pull through, we love each other and support each other."

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a statement Friday night saying "Tonight I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to the residents of Kaktovik for the tragic fire that ravaged the school early this morning. The brave first responders and volunteers who fought the fire in extreme weather conditions also deserve our gratitude. Let's all be grateful there were no injuries or fatalities. My administration is already working with the North Slope Borough to assess the damage and assist the school with resuming classes as soon as possible."

ORIGINAL STORY:

The only school in Kaktovik is said to be a “total loss” after an overnight fire.

Kaktovik Mayor Amanda Kaleak says the school is a total loss.

Channel 2 spoke with Melvin Kayotuk, resident of Kaktovik, who captured video of the fire.

“We woke up then heard the school was on fire,” Kayotuk said.

Harry Brower Jr., North Slope Borough Mayor, said in a statement:

"Currently, we do not know the cause of the fire but we do know the school was evacuated quickly."

The mayor went on to say, "We are so happy to report, no injuries or loss of life has been reported at this time."

Brower added Borough resource will be made available to those affected.

“It caught on fire and just got worse and worse,” Kayotuk went on to say, “I feel sad for our kids that are gone right now. They went to play a ball game in another village and they’re going to come home and they’re going to have no more school as it being burnt down.”

Kayotuk suspects frozen pipes along with heaters being on may have sparked the fire.

[UPDATE]

According to D.J. Fauske, Director of Government and External Affairs with the North Slope Borough, news of the school burning down has brought in aid and support to Kaktovik less than 12 hours after the fire started.

They said a local business will allow their kitchen to be used to prepare school meals indefinitely; emergency equipment and supplies will be flown in Saturday morning on a charter continuing as needed; Kaktovik’s community center will be used as a learning space; and the North Slope School District and Borough IT departments are putting together servers and laptops for the students to use.

Flora Rexford grew up in Kaktovik and graduated from the school. Now, she is a teacher.

She said the school was supposed to host a basketball tournament this weekend. Due to the frozen pipes in the gym, she and the team went to Atqasuk instead. Those children played for their school that won't be there upon there return.

"Everyone's in shock," she said, "Asking, 'where are we gonna go to school? What are we gonna do? What's gonna happen to the rest of the school year? What's gonna happen to the rest of our season? We don't have a place to practice we don't have - '. And there's just so much there. They have a lot of personal belongings in lockers. It's just surreal talking to them about it."

Her uncle, Fenton Rexford, is a former mayor of the town. He said the building was essential to the community, but the people will pull through.

"You know, materials can be replaced, but human beings and folks are irreplaceable and we thankful that everybody is safe," he said, "Kaktovik people are resilient, we're strong, we'll be able to pull through, we love each other and support each other."

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