WASILLA — A car fire that ignited a building Friday morning was one of three similar fires this week.
None of the fires — two Wednesday afternoon — resulted in an injury or death, and authorities don’t suspect they are related in any way. Friday’s fire was at the Olive Tree Counseling center along the Palmer-Wasilla Highway about 9 a.m. A fire in a red Chevy Impala melted, then ignited the front of the building, said Central Mat-Su Chief James Steele.
“The fire was also within five feet of the building,” he said. “The heat intensified and actually started melting the vinyl siding and did some fire damage to the entrance. It actually started burning the structural members of the building.”
As for the Wednesday fires, a fire on Snodgrass Drive at a healthcare facility started in the engine compartment but rapidly engulfed the passenger compartment of a vehicle in a parking lot, according to Steele and radio reports.
Another fire south of intersection of Parks and Glenn highways Wednesday evening had the additional element of danger to it, Steele said.
“Bystanders were using water bottles and pouring them on the fire,” he said. “They had knocked it down to a degree to where it was easily extinguished.”
Engine compartment fires pose a particular problem on two fronts, Steele said.
“Cause is difficult to determine on an engine compartment fire,” he said. “We can usually narrow it down to the area of an engine, but there are multiple components that can serve as an ignition source: gas lines, oil lines, electrical lines.”
The presence of gas and electricity in the engine means engine compartment fires should be referred immediately to local firefighters, Steele said.
The Palmer-Wasilla Highway fire was “just a situation where it happened to work out,” he said. “The fire had just started so there was some plastic that was burning. If it truly had been gas-fed, then sometimes water alone will not extinguish it.”
The best defense against an engine compartment fire is routine upkeep and maintenance, Steele said.