• Building and grounds personified an off-the-grid lifestyle with wind and solar power independence
By Naomi Klouda
A fire on Saturday evening completely engulfed a five-story home built with local spruce logs by Robin Lipinski and purchased in an August high-profile auction by Shayne Baringer.
Fire fighters at Anchor Point were called out at about 8:03 p.m., but due to the massive size of the structure on fire, four other emergency fire crews also joined Anchor Point Volunteer Firefighters, said Acting Fire Chief Kayt Andrews said. These crews included Central Peninisula, Homer Volunteer Firefighters, Kachemak Emergency Services, and Ninilchik Volunteer Firefighters.
When the first responders arrived, the home was fully engulfed in flames. Two of four cabins on the 10-acre property also were enflamed. A small fire in the shed housing the batteries that stored power from the property’s three wind turbines also caught fire.
“When it was called in there were flames visible inside the structure. Thankfully there were no inhabitants. They (the new owners) had not moved in yet, though a caretaker was overseeing it,” Andrews said. The caretaker was not on the property when it caught fire. A person driving by saw the flames and called in the fire report.
Andrews said that since state fire marshals are working on the investigation into the fire’s cause, she didn’t want to speculate. “There are a lot of thoughts on what it could have been. The outdoor wood stove was going, but we don’t know yet.”
The multi-story log structure was heated by an outdoor wood stove that fed heat into the house. It was located directly behind the house. To the right of the home were four cabins. Firefighters were able to save two of those structures. They also put out the fire in the shed holding the wind turbine batteries.
“Due to the wind mills not shutting off, they overpowered the batteries and that contributed to a fire inside that structure,” Andrews said. “It ended up being a smaller fire.”
The opportunity for five agencies working on the fire together was good in terms of training.
“This was a really good exercise in bringing five departments together to work. It went very smoothly. Everyone was professional, all of them had their jobs and assignments,” Andrews said. “This could have been a recipe for disaster, because we don’t get to train together as often as we would like. Anchor Point is very thankful everyone came to help us out. It worked very well.”
Crews worked throughout the night, on the defensive, to keep the fire from spreading to the other buildings on the property. Most finished up by 2:20 a.m., Sunday but remaining crew stayed until 9:51 a.m. to make sure the fire was completely out.
“Because of the size of the structure and due to safety concerns, once we knew no one was in there, we had to do a defensive attack until the building came down and it was safer,” Andrews said.
Structures were built fairly close together. The risk of walls collapsing and hitting firefighters when it came down was too great for them to get too close to the back buildings. “We were only able to do an offensive attack. I’m thankful for how well everything turned out. No injuries.”
Andrews encourages people to call the fire department when they see smoke.
“Don’t hesitate to call it in. We would much rather respond and have it turn out to be nothing than to wait for too much time to pass before someone calls,” she added.
A person called in a fire after seeing an orange glow not too long ago. “Then they called back and apologized, saying ‘It was the moon glowing behind my neighbor’s house.’ We had commented that the moon looked really orange that night. But it is better to call us out to the moon, than than to have it be too late, for a fire.”
Robin Lipinski built the home at Mile 153 for himself and his artist wife, Margaretta. It took seven and half years to build, using 26 truckloads of spruce-bark-beetle-killed logs. It was powered by three windmills and 36 solar panels. Rental cabins and RV slots were included in the 10.9 acre property.
When the home was built, Lipinski decided to offer it in an auction, believing that would be the best way to show he was serious about selling it.
“The question I’m asked most is ‘why?’ Why am I selling this? It boils down to life is too short and dreams are too big,” Robin said. “I’m going to throw my hat in the air, and which ever way the wind blows it, we’ll follow it.”
Eight years ago, it was Robin’s dream to live on an Alaska coast. The couple eyed places from Ketchikan and Homer. They found this property north of Anchor Point, sitting just above Whiskey Gulch beach with a view of Mts. Iliamna and Redoubt.
On Aug. 18, Grubstake Auction of Anchorage offered the house, the land and all its building for sale. Shayne Baringer was the highest bidder. The property is valued at $805,100 by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assessors office. It sold for under $500,000.
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