Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Fire under investigation

Su Valley High | Patty Sullivan | Thursday, June 28, 2007

The cause of a fire that destroyed Susitna Valley High last night is not yet known. A State Fire Marshal investigator arrived at the blaze last night and will continue investigating its source. It could take a few weeks, said Matanuska-Susitna Borough Emergency Services Director Dennis Brodigan.

About 70 firefighters and support personnel from across the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Palmer City, Chugiak, and the State Division of Forestry fought the flames through the night. Several crews were still on scene this morning trying to extinguish the remains of the fire in the tons of debris. Today front end loaders will scoop up the remaining burning material and dump it on the parking lot where it will be hosed down, Brodigan said.

Su Valley High is about 58 miles north of Wasilla, 14 miles south of Talkeetna, near the "Y" also known as the Junction of the Talkeetna Spur Highway and the George Parks Highway.

This is one of the largest structure fires fought here in the MAT-SU, he added. The building was 47,050 square feet. A Forestry helicopter dropped likely 50 or more buckets of water on the fire as part of the effort to save parts of the school, but the fire was burning too hot.

The call for the school fire came in just after a large group of firefighters had gotten another initially ominous-looking fire under control in hardwoods near the intersection of Purinton Parkway and Susitna Parkway, southwest of the Big Lake area. Winds last night were strong enough to hold flags nearly straight out.

During the school year, about 200 students attend Su Valley, 7th grade through 12th grade. The school was also a vital meeting place in the community. The 34-year-old school was undergoing a $5.5 million construction project for a new roof and structural upgrades when the fire ignited. Funds to restore its roof were hard won last year with the help of our state Legislators.

Su Valley High is valued at $13.23 million and its contents, $691,000, according to Finance Director Tammy Clayton.

A fire marshal investigation is standard when any building worth more than $500,000 burns down, Brodigan said. The fire could have begun between 6:30 pm and 7 pm, likely in the middle of the building, he said.

For more information call Patty Sullivan, Public Affairs Manager, (907) 745-9577.