One Nome firefighter hoses down the Polaris Hotel on Tuesday morning after fire has been burning for more than 6 hours. (Photo: Davis Hovey, KNOM)Nome residents awoke this morning to see the Polaris Hotel ablaze. 22 of the available 30 Nome firefighters are currently containing the blaze. According to Nome Fire Chief Jim West, Jr., the Fire Department was first notified of a fire that started in the Polaris liquor store around 3:15 Tuesday morning.Listen now“It’s coming out of the liquor store; the owner came out and said he smelled smoke,” West said. “He checked the back kitchen, nothing there; as he worked his way back through the building and came to the storage area where’s there a couple coolers and whatnot, he got a burst of smoke and flame.”West and his crew are all safe, but reportedly at least one person, who could still be inside Polaris, is unaccounted for.“We made entry to the upstairs to get everybody out; we think we got everybody out. We are unsure of it,” West said. “There’s a possibility that someone might be inside, but we are unsure at this time.”The identity of the missing person is not being released at this time.As the work to extinguish this fire continues, West observed the blaze spread up through the second floor of Polaris and on to an adjacent structure. The Fire Chief says his crew has taken steps to prevent the fire from affecting further buildings and has a back hoe standing by just in case.“I think at this point in time it’s not going to jump, you can tell the smoke conditions have changed,” West said. “More white smoke, lighter white, lighter grey. The building had a lot of spray insulation in it, and that’s very hazardous, spray foam insulation, that’s what it is. That’s what we are worried about, too; it’s just an old building.”West Jr. believes the Polaris Hotel is totaled at this point.According to Fire Lieutenant Kevin Knowlton, the building is compromised, but no adjacent structures have been harmed. He says an excavator was used this afternoon to prevent the fire from spreading:“The west side of the building, we’ve got some residents that were fairly close, and if the walls fell outward they would have hit those; so, we brought the excavator in to kind of push everything into itself instead of waiting to see if it was going to do something we didn’t want it to do,” Knowlton said.According to a press release from the City of Nome, the origin of the fire is still unknown. The Nome Recreation Center has been activated as the community’s emergency shelter.Lt. Knowlton added that it was good to see community members come out to support the fire team throughout the day:“When we’re focusing on doing our job and people are looking out for us, it’s very, very appreciated,” Knowlton said.Late this afternoon, firefighters continued to douse what’s left of the fire. The State Fire Marshal’s Office has been called in and is expected to be on the scene tomorrow.This story has been updated.
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