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Story Last modified at 10:23 p.m. on Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cats rescued from house fire

By Alaska Star staff

An early-morning house fire in Eagle River Saturday substantially damaged a home on Gravina Circle but an occupant and his pets escaped unharmed.

Homeowner Dennis Willeck and his wife, Linda, are in Ohio and were when the fire occurred, Willeck said by phone Monday.

But their 23-year-old son and his two cats lived in the house, Willeck said.

The son managed to grab both cats and escape the fire, he said.

The Anchorage Fire Department got a call at 5:43 a.m. and got to the house within six minutes, according to AFD spokesman Al Tamagni. The first of three engines – part of 11 vehicles that responded with roughly 20 personnel – arrived from Eagle River's Station 11 to find flames erupting from two basement windows.

The deck was on fire and flames burned to the roof, Tamagni said. Crews stayed on scene until after 8 a.m.

The fire's cause appears to be a candle burning near some combustible items, he said. Estimated property loss was at least $75,000 plus $40,000 content loss.

The family has insurance on the home, Willeck said. His son is staying in a motel while the family works on longer-term housing. It may be six months before the home is liveable again, he said.

Willeck said he was just thankful no one was hurt, and very grateful to the fire department.

"They did a whale of a job," he said. "They saved the roof and absolutely saved a lot of the structure."

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, January 5, 2011.