Life Nets Used In Fairbanks, Alaska, Apartment Fire

Life Nets Used In Fairbanks, Alaska, Apartment Fire

A basement fire in the Northward Building, a block-long, eight-story apartment building in Fairbanks, Alaska, threatened more than 300 persons on January 13, 1957. The smoky blaze created a near panic and gave firemen several hours of gruelling work.

One man died from smoke inhalation while trying to make his way to the roof of the building and a young woman suffered a fractured spine on a three-floor jump.

Using loud speakers, firemen warned the people standing on the window sills not to jump but to wait for rescuers to reach them. Cooler-headed tenants also endeavored to stem the panic but some occupants refused to heed the warnings and the firemen resorted to nets to catch them.

One woman jumped from the fourth floor with her six-months-old baby in her arms. The infant was unhurt but the mother received a broken leg. Another mother dropped her three-year-old daughter from the sixth floor into a life net held on the roof of a second-floor projection of the building. The child was unhurt but the mother was injured when she followed the child.

The fire apparently started in a locker room in the basement and quickly filled the building with smoke. The main body of the fire was confined to the basement. The blaze cut off electricity to the building services, which contributed to the near-panic. Firemen, aided by local and territorial police and Air Force personnel from nearby Ladd Air Force Base entered the smoke-filled building and rescued the frightened tenants. Many of the panic-stricken had improvised bed-sheet ropes and were preparing to use them in sure-suicide escape attempts.

Firemen were hampered by outmoded equipment. The trading area, including the city of about 30,000 persons, has grown so quickly that the fire department has been outmatched in the forward progress.

A resident of the Northward Building, Roy Tietjen, was credited with keeping panicky people from jumping from this Fairbanks, Alaska, apartment house. Standing on a window ledge as smoke filled the eight-story structure, he pleaded with the panic-stricken residents not to use the bed-sheet ropes but to wait for firemen to rescue them

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