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Fire at Stebbins School: Several Buildings Destroyed

A fire at Stebbins School causes a large plume of dark grey smoke to rise into the air. Pamela Pete photo from Facebook.

The Latest

Last updated 6:02 a.m. 06/27/2024

A fire has broken out at Tukurngailnguq School in Stebbins. According to eyewitnesses the fire started in a shop next to the school around 7:00 p.m. The school, shop, two new portable buildings, and nearby housing are expected to be total losses. 

Bystanders live-streamed the fire on Facebook as regional residents offered up words of support in the comments. The videos revealed a fire that had already engulfed much of the southern side of the school. Streams of water could be seen flowing up from the ground as firefighters attempted to slow the spread.

Witnesses reported the smell of burning rubber in the air as rubber mulch from the school’s playground caught fire. 

Heavy equipment was used to dig a perimeter around the school. As of the morning of June 27, it appears to have helped contained the fire.

Red bags of gear with bottled water ready to be loaded on a plane to Stebbins. Ben Townsend photo.
Firefighters departing from Nome on a Bering Air King Air. Ben Townsend photo.

Response Efforts

The Nome Volunteer Fire Department (NVFD) began mobilizing to Stebbins around 8:00 p.m. with a Bering Air Cessna Grand Caravan carrying one crew member and equipment.

Volunteer firefighters could be seen assembling gear at Nome Airport, waiting to catch the next flight to Stebbins. A King Air departed Nome Airport at 8:47 p.m. with additional equipment and crew.

NVFD Chief Jim West Jr. confirmed to KNOM that six firefighters are being sent to Stebbins. West has received reports that the fire started in a boiler room in a nearby shop building, although that is still to be confirmed. Witnesses reported hearing an explosion coming from the direction of the shop.

The school is located near the town’s water plant and teacher housing. In the late evening 10 mile per hour northern winds shifted and began to flow from the south, creating new challenges for firefighters attempting to contain the blaze.

The outbreak comes less than two years after a fire burned down the village’s only grocery store.

About 260 students attended the school built over two decades ago. This story will be updated as we learn more.

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