By Hannah Heimbuch
A Homer man is dead following a fire that broke out in his Rainbow Court home on Thursday. The name of the victim has not yet been released by authorities, as investigation into the fire and death continue.
Nearly 25 emergency responders reported to a 10:38 a.m. fire call on Thursday, June 12, including Homer Police, Homer Fire Department, Kachemak Emergency Services and the Department of Forestry.
“When we arrived there were flames coming from the northeast corner of the residence, and heavy smoke throughout,” said Dan Miotke, acting chief for the Homer Fire Department. “(The flames) actually were starting to impede on some trees there in the yard.”
One man tried to enter the residence before fire crews arrived, said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl, looking for the home’s occupant.
“A neighbor went in and realized the smoke was very thick,” Robl said. “He went down on his hands and knees, but couldn’t make it very far before he had to withdraw.”
Responders discovered the body of one adult in a hallway near the home’s bedrooms. The body was sent to the state crime lab last week for an autopsy and identification.
The fire was put out fairly quickly using handlines, Miotke said, and affected no other structures in the neighborhood, located on the east side of Kachemak Way above downtown Homer.
“There’s smoke damage throughout the residence, but the fire damage was contained to the east end of the building,” he said.
While that day saw moderate rain in Homer, that’s not always a help.
“The rain doesn’t do much for structural fires,” Miotke said, ”if anything it was impeding the investigation.”
Any indication as to the cause of the blaze will be kept under wraps until the investigation is finalized.
“We have our fire investigator Gary Thomas working with the State Fire Marshal,” Miotke said.
The Homer Police Department also continues to be involved.
“We’re awaiting the autopsy result to see if there’s anything unusual or suspicious to address there,” Robl said. “And we’re awaiting fire origin and cause determination as well.”
Homer Police attended the Thursday morning fire to help manage traffic and bystanders as the fire was put out, rerouting cars away from the area, then began their own stage of the investigation.
“In a case like the fire here, we have an unattended death situation involved,” Robl said. “A soon as we have one of those we begin the ‘unattended death investigation.’”
Fire crews and emergency personnel on the lower peninsula have been busy in recent weeks, reporting to grass fires, a large home fire on Diamond Ridge, and this latest tragic fire in Homer. While this puts obvious stress on area emergency responders, Miotke said, they prepare to deal with crisis and its aftermath in many ways.
“We kind of try and condition our responders that this is something they could be exposed to,” Miotke said. “And we have our systems in place if someone is feeling like they need to talk about what they’ve seen or observed on scene.”
Miotke noted that everyone should be aware of the location and condition of their smoke detectors, checking frequently to ensure they are working.
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