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Fairbanks man starts fire to clear 'hoarder house'; whole structure goes up in flames

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Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012 11:55 am | Updated: 11:52 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Residents and businesses near Van Horn Road and Peger Road got an early morning surprise Monday when they spotted 20-foot flames reaching above rooftops on an industrial property off Schacht Street.

As big as the fire was, it wasn’t a surprise for owner Terry Underwood. He started the fire.

“It’s an old hoarder house,” he explained to University Fire Department Battalion Chief Jim Styers while crews monitored the collapsed building.

The department responded at 8 a.m. to numerous calls about the fire and determined the building was a total loss. About 8:30, a few crews were on scene to ensure the fire didn’t spread to a nearby grove of trees or any neighboring structures.

“The guys aren’t going to fight it,” he said. “There’s nothing to save, we’re just making sure it doesn’t spread.”

The building was a small two-story house that Underwood said has been unoccupied for 15 years. Underwood said he had attempted to demolish part of the building on Monday and had planned to burn it in two parts, but the fire spread, engulfing the entire building and reducing it to an early morning bonfire.

Styers said he didn’t believe there was anything illegal about Underwood’s fire.

“You can burn your own house down,” he said.

Underwood said he had burned a similar old building on his property earlier and had no problems. He told Styers that he had unhooked the power lines and ensured there were no chemicals in the building, but apologized for making a scene.

“I should have probably called you,” he told the battalion chief.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544.

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